On April 28, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed his 11th immigration-related lawsuit against the Biden administration. The same day, a coalition of 14 other red states filed a similar lawsuit in an Arizona federal court. The effort aims to block a new policy allowing individual U.S. asylum officers—rather than immigration judges—to rule on the claims of newly arrived immigrants. It’s also part of a trend that’s taken hold among GOP attorneys general in the past year, and one they borrowed from their blue-state counterparts, reports Stateline. During President Trump’s term, Democratic attorneys general filed more than a dozen suits over immigration policy. Since President Biden’s inauguration, red states have filed suits over mask mandates, COVID-19 vaccine rules for large employers and the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, but appear especially interested in thwarting migration over the U.S.-Mexico border. Republican attorneys general have filed more than a dozen multistate lawsuits in the past year to block Biden immigration policies they oppose.
The tactic of multistate coalitions blocking federal policies or actions has become a powerful tool in the arsenal of state attorneys general, according to political scientist Paul Nolette of Marquette University. Nolette has been tracking multistate litigation from state attorneys general since 2007 and created attorneysgeneral.org, a website dedicated to the data. He said states wanting to block Biden’s immigration policy simply have to go to a favorable district judge, preferably a conservative one appointed by a Republican president and ask for a preliminary injunction. If a judge grants the injunction, the policy is halted. “This is the game they play, and getting a preliminary injunction is the key,” Nolette said. “Especially since district courts are increasingly willing to have nationwide injunctions, it's a good way to get big bang for your buck.” Republican-led states have filed at least 27 lawsuits in an effort to block immigration actions by the Biden administration. The administration’s proposed Asylum Office Rule, set to take effect May 31, is meant to reduce the average wait time for asylum-seekers to receive a decision from years to months, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. As of March, immigration judges had nearly 1.7 million pending cases—the largest backlog in history, says the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.