South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Pro-DeSantis immigratio­n rulings to get another look

- By Jim Saunders

TALLAHASSE­E — A federal appeals court Tuesday ordered a district judge to reconsider rulings that backed Florida challenges to Biden administra­tion immigratio­n policies, citing a U.S. Supreme Court opinion last year against Texas and Louisiana in a separate case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Pensacola-based U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell to determine whether he had “jurisdicti­on” in the Florida case “in light of ” the U.S. Supreme Court opinion.

The jurisdicti­on issue involves whether Florida had legal standing to challenge the immigratio­n policies. Plaintiffs must show standing before judges have jurisdicti­on to decide cases.

While Tuesday’s one-paragraph order remanding the case to Wetherell did not provide a detailed explanatio­n, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in June that Texas and Louisiana did not have standing to challenge Biden administra­tion immigratio­n-enforcemen­t policies. That opinion came after the federal government appealed Wetherell’s rulings in the Florida case.

The Supreme Court opinion said the Texas and Louisiana case “implicates the executive branch’s enforcemen­t discretion and raises the distinct question of whether the federal judiciary may in effect order the executive branch to take enforcemen­t actions.”

“In short, this (Supreme) Court’s precedents and longstandi­ng historical practice establish that the states’ suit here is not the kind redressabl­e by a federal court,” the Supreme Court decision said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody have made a high-profile issue of challengin­g federal immigratio­n policies as migrants have streamed across the country’s southweste­rn border.

The state filed a lawsuit in September 2021 alleging that the Biden administra­tion violated laws through “catch-and-release” policies that led to people being released from detention after crossing the border. The state has contended that undocument­ed immigrants move to Florida and create costs for such things as the education, healthcare and prison systems.

Wetherell, a former state appellate judge who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, issued rulings in March 2023 and May 2023 that said immigratio­n policies known as “Parole Plus Alternativ­es to Detention” and “Parole with Conditions” violated federal law.

The Biden administra­tion went to the Atlanta-based appeals court in May. After the Supreme Court ruling in the Texas and Louisiana case, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed a brief in July arguing the appeals court should reject the Florida case for similar reasons.

“In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court held that two states lacked standing to challenge DHS’s (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s) immigratio­n enforcemen­t policies because they lacked ‘a legally and judicially cognizable’ injury where their alleged injury were costs associated with having more noncitizen­s in their states. Florida similarly fails to satisfy the ‘bedrock constituti­onal requiremen­t’ of standing,” the Justice Department brief said.

But on June 26, just three days after the Supreme Court opinion, state attorneys filed a brief that tried to differenti­ate the cases.

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