Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week filed a lawsuit to reverse President Biden’s executive orders on immigration. His lawsuit is based mainly on an illegal agreement between the outgoing Trump administration and Trump-supporting state and local officials in several jurisdictions.
The so-called Sanctuary for Americans First Enactment Agreement says that DHS must give states six months to review and respond to any changes in immigration policy before those changes can take effect. This gives states virtual veto power over federal immigration policy, in a clear violation of both the constitutional principle of federalism and the constitutional reservation of immigration authority to the federal government.
The immigration agreement was signed by Ken Cuccinelli, who was “acting” as second in command at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time. The titles and authority of Trump’s “acting” leadership at DHS shifted frequently, changing according to both Trump dictates and federal court rulings that found some “acting” appointments illegal.
When Buzzfeed News broke the story of the illegal agreement in mid-January, legal experts condemned it:
“Pratheepan Gulasekaram, an immigration law professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said the agreement appears to be an attempt by the Trump administration to create a mechanism for the states to potentially sue in federal court over any policies that are changed or introduced by the incoming administration.
“’This is just another last-ditch effort to try and ingrain a reckless hyper enforcement system, but completely unmoored from legal, constitutional ways of implementing policy,’ he said.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was one of several Trump-supporting state officials and sheriffs to sign the unprecedented and clearly illegal agreement in January. He is the first to try to use it to stop immigration policy changes.
Paxton has his own legal problems. He has been under indictment for felony securities fraud since 2015, the year after he first took office. That case has been dragged out with motions and appeals and has yet to go to trial.
This year, eight top officials in his own office publicly accused him of bribery, abuse of office, and improper influence. The FBI is currently investigating those charges. The Texas Tribune reports:
“His usual defenders are staying quiet; even his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, has not commented on the new allegations. The crimes he is accused of are serious — and so are his accusers, who among them have years of service at the agency and conservative bona fides to rival Paxton’s own.”
Since the eight whistleblowers sent their charges and evidence to law enforcement authorities, Paxton has fired four, put one on leave, and three have resigned. Other senior staff in his office also left after the latest charges became public.
There’s no way that Paxton’s attempt to assert Texas sovereignty over the federal government will prevail in court. His filing looks and smells like an effort to dredge up support from never-say-die Trumpists and distract from his own legal troubles.
When Paxton sued in December to overturn presidential election results, the U.S. Supreme Court quickly threw out that bogus challenge. The Trump administration’s illegal agreement to sabotage immigration policy changes will meet the same fate.