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Judge rejects Texas lawsuit against immigration policy central to Biden’s border strategy

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A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by Republican officials in Texas that sought to shut down a federal program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to fly to U.S. airports, preserving for now a policy central to the Biden administration’s immigration agenda.

The dispute centered on a Biden administration program that allows up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the U.S. each month if they have American financial sponsors. Those permitted to fly to the U.S. under the policy have been granted two-year work permits under an immigration authority known as humanitarian parole that President Biden has used at an unprecedented scale.

The Biden administration has argued the policy discourages would-be migrants from those four crisis-stricken countries from journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border and entering the country illegally. The program was announced in January 2023 in conjunction with a bilateral agreement in which Mexico agreed to accept the return of migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who crossed into the U.S. illegally.

In its lawsuit, Texas said the program bypassed limits Congress set on legal immigration levels and violated the spirit of the parole authority, which it argues should only be used on a limited basis.

But U.S. District Court Judge Drew Tipton ruled Friday that Texas lacked legal standing to sue over the policy because it had failed to show it had “suffered an injury” due to the program. He dismissed the case without ruling on Texas’ claims that the federal initiative is illegal.

As of Feb. 8, more than 365,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans have arrived under the Biden administration sponsorship policy, according to internal Department of Homeland Security data obtained by CBS News.

Representatives for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, two vocal Republican critics of Mr. Biden’s immigration policies, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Texas can appeal Tipton’s order.

The survival of the sponsorship program is a major legal victory for the Biden administration, which has sought to combine legal migration pathways and tighter asylum rules to contain unprecedented levels of migrant crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, with varying degrees of success. 

The White House welcomed Tipton’s decision.

“The district court’s decision is based on the success of this program, which has expanded lawful pathways for nationals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela who have a sponsor in this country and pass our rigorous vetting process, while dramatically decreasing the number of nationals from those countries crossing our Southwest Border,” White House spokesman Angelo Fernandez Hernandez told CBS News in a statement.

Friday’s ruling was also, in many ways, a surprise outcome. Tipton, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, has previously ruled against other Biden administration immigration rules, including a 2021 memo that narrowed the scope of arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. interior. Texas has also been generally successful over the past three years convincing federal district court judges in the state to block Mr. Biden’s signature immigration policies.

But Tipton acknowledged in his opinion that illegal entries along the U.S. southern border by migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela had plunged after the sponsorship program was announced.

Customs and Border Protection statistics indeed show a sharp drop in unlawful border crossings by migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua over the past year. Illegal crossings by Venezuelans, however, have fluctuated, sometimes dropping significantly, and at times, spiking, including to a record level late last year. More than 7.7 million Venezuelans have fled the economic collapse and political turmoil in their homeland in recent years, the largest displaced population in the world, according to United Nations figures.

“In conclusion, the Parties agree, and the record reflects, that the number of (Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan) nationals entering the United States has dramatically declined from the date the program commenced,” Tipton wrote in his ruling.

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