A federal judge in Florida ruled on Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s policy of releasing many people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border rather than detaining them violates U.S. immigration law.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell in Pensacola agreed with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody that the policy, which had authorized “alternatives to detention” such as ankle bracelets, phone monitoring, or check-ins by immigration officers, was unlawful.
The 2021 Department of Homeland Security memo that had authorized these alternatives was blocked by the judge, who said federal immigration authorities lack the power to implement those alternatives on a widespread basis under existing law.
Wetherell, appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump, said that the policy has turned the Southwest Border into “little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country.”
The judge gave the Biden administration seven days to file an appeal before his decision takes effect.
If the ruling is upheld, it could lead to a significant increase in the number of people held in detention centers, as the administration has said it lacks the resources and detention capacity to process a recent surge of migrants.
In response to the ruling, Moody said in a statement that “President Biden is responsible for the border crisis and his unlawful immigration policies make this country less safe.”
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The “catch and release” policy has been a contentious issue in U.S. immigration policy, with some arguing that it is a humane alternative to overcrowded detention facilities, while others criticize it as incentivizing illegal immigration.
It is important to note that this ruling only affects Florida and may be appealed by the Biden administration.