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If Homeland Security Won't Do Its Job, Florida Will, Says AG Moody

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FLORIDA — Maintaining that lax immigration policies by the Biden administration have allowed federal authorities to lower their guard when it comes to illegal immigration, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida, have introduced a bill to give states the authority to combat the problem themselves.

The House of Representatives bill, H.R. 7413, would allow state officials to demand that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security enforce federal immigration law in certain circumstances. DHS will then have the option to either enforce the law or deputize state officials to carry out the federal immigration duties.

Moody and Posey introduced the bill after President Joe Biden announced April 1 the termination of Title 42, a pandemic rule that allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants attempting to enter the U.S. from a country where a communicable disease is present.

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Title 42 was reactivated in March 2020 after the pandemic was declared. In that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 1.7 million migrants have been sent back to their home countries under the order.

In consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, the CDC will lift Title 42 on May 23 based on the fact that 97 percent of the U.S. population lives in a county with a “low” COVID-19 Community Level. The CDC said that low infection rate “will sufficiently mitigate the COVID-19 risk for U.S. communities and make an order under (Title) 42 no longer necessary.”

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However, in its strategic plan released last month, the DHS said lifting Title 42 restrictions “will likely cause a significant increase in arrivals” at the Southwest border.

As a result, GOP senators led by Rick Scott of Florida sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, urging the DHS to prepare for an onslaught of undocumented immigrants and tighten border security.

“This policy (Title 42) served as an effective deterrent to illegal border crossings,” Scott wrote. “This is a grave concern that threatens to overwhelm our already strained immigration system and will only exacerbate a disastrous situation at our Southern border.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas countered that Title 42 was a public health measure, not an immigration policy, and should not be used to prevent people from applying for asylum in the U.S.

“Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but rather a public health authority used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect against the spread of communicable disease,” Mayorkas said. “Title 42 remains in place until May 23 and, until then, DHS will continue to expel single adults and families encountered at the Southwest border.

“Once the Title 42 order is no longer in place, DHS will process individuals encountered at the border pursuant to Title 8, which is the standard procedure we use to place individuals in removal proceedings,” Mayorkas said. “Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”

Moody is predicting a surge in illegal border crossings once Title 42 is no longer enforced.

“In less than a year and a half, the Biden administration has obliterated our Southwest border and it’s about to get even worse as the president prepares to end Title 42,” Moody said. “We can no longer trust this administration to enforce the law. It is time for swift action to protect the American people. That is why, Rep. Posey and I are taking this matter to Congress and asking the legislative branch to let the states protect our citizens by enforcing public-safety immigration laws when Biden won’t.”

“Maintaining operational control over our nation’s borders is critical to our security and our ability to stop human traffickers, drug smugglers and other violent criminals and terrorists who mean to do our communities harm,” Posey said. “When the federal government abdicates its role in protecting our nation’s borders and refuses to enforce immigration laws allowing millions of people to illegally cross into our country, states should have authority to protect their citizens.”

Under H.R. 7413, titled the Immigration and Enforcement Partnership Act of 2022, if a state attorney general finds that the DHS is not adequately fulfilling its duties under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the attorney general can demand in writing that the DHS secretary arrest, detain and remove undocumented immigrants.

The DHS secretary would then have 30 days after receiving the written request to either comply or authorize state officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

If the secretary does not comply, the attorney general has the option of filing civil action against the secretary.

To read the bill, click here.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encounters with undocumented migrants at the Southwest border totaled more than two million since February 2021, according to the 2021 ICE annual report.

In the report, ICE said 59,011 of these undocumented migrants were sent back to their home countries as compared to the 2020 ICE annual report, which reported that 185,884 undocumented migrants were removed from the United States.

Moody said illegal immigration costs Florida taxpayers $100 million a year. She fears relaxing immigration will exacerbate Florida’s human trafficking and opioid overdose rates, which are already among the highest in the nation.

Immigration advocates, however, said the restrictive immigration policies forwarded by the GOP would risk the lives of thousands of immigrants seeking asylum and needlessly tear apart families.

In a statement, Cynthia Garcia, national campaign manager for Community Protection of United We Dream, said Biden’s failure to sunset Title 42 sooner has had a traumatic impact on immigrants.

“President Biden can praise his administration’s purported achievements all he wants, but at the end of the day, young Black, brown and immigrant people from across the country know of his failures to protect our communities,” Garcia said. “From the over two million people who President Biden has deported to his excuses for failing to revoke Title 42 and ‘remain in Mexico,’ directly impacted communities don’t just see the impact of President Biden’s betrayals, we feel it.”

While GOP leaders are concerned about the costs to taxpayers of fighting human trafficking and the opioid epidemic, Garcia said millions of immigrants are experiencing the incalculable costs to themselves and their families due to “the trauma every time lives are torn apart and loved ones are deported. We feel the pain of community members languishing in detention centers. We feel the damage to our physical and mental health when the president chooses to fund profit-driven surveillance technology over our well-being.

“More than a year into his administration, he (Biden) continues to fail millions nationwide,” said Yazmin Valdez, who was honored by the National Immigration Law Center for her work with United We Dream.

“When President Biden took office, he promised to protect families like mine and deliver meaningful change to advance the fight for immigrant, racial and climate justice,” said Valdez in a statement. “More than a year into his administration, he continues to fail millions nationwide, including my family. Last year, my dad became one of over 80,000 first-time DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants whose applications were stalled after a federal ruling in Texas. Every day, I live with the constant fear that my dad could be separated from our family and deported.”

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