Florida ruling is ‘sabotage’ of federal migrant response, White House says

“The Department of Justice is going to fight it,” the White House press secretary said of the ruling.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a briefing at the White House, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Washington.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a briefing at the White House, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Washington. [ EVAN VUCCI | AP ]
Published May 12

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration harshly criticized the decision by a Florida judge on Thursday night to put a temporary restraining order on its emergency parole program, blocking the government’s ability to release some migrants into the country as they await legal proceedings to avoid overcrowding at detention centers.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters at a press briefing that the administration viewed the suit by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody that prompted the order as an effort to stymie the administration’s ability to respond effectively to a potential migrant surge at the border.

The dispute comes as a pandemic-era migration rule known as Title 42 expired at midnight on Thursday night, prompting fears among border patrol officials that migrant encounters at the southern border could skyrocket. No surge has materialized so far, officials said.

“The way we see that is, it’s sabotage. It’s pure and simple,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s how it reads to us. The claims that [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] is allowing or encouraging mass release of migrants is just categorically false. That’s not what’s occurring, that is not what’s happening.”

Jean-Pierre would not say whether she believed it was the Florida attorney general or T. Kent Wetherell II, the overseeing judge appointed by former President Donald Trump, that was motivated to sabotage the federal effort.

“I won’t go into specific persons,” she said, but added: “Even before Title 42 lifted, the attorney general of Florida filed suit to sabotage our effort to humanely and effectively manage the border.”

The Justice Department has not said whether it will appeal the ruling. Jean-Pierre alluded to a looming appeal.

“It is a harmful ruling,” she said. “And the Department of Justice is going to fight it. That’s what we’re going to see.”

Moody’s office did not immediately respond when asked about the White House’s comment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis praised Moody’s legal challenge, which he said was needed to address the “rolling disaster at the border.”

“Florida was able to win an injunction and I want to thank Attorney General Ashley Moody for filing that, to say that Biden cannot just release all these people into our country who are here illegally,” DeSantis said at a news conference Friday morning.

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“Maybe it will cause them to look internally and say, maybe we should start doing our job and actually protecting American people for a change because they have not been willing to do that,” he added.

DeSantis has aggressively targeted the Biden administration’s immigration policies in recent years as the Republican governor considers a run for president.

“This is something that is the responsibility of Joe Biden. This is a responsibility that he has defaulted on really from day one of his presidency,” DeSantis said when he signed an immigration legislative package on Wednesday. “Obviously if we had a different administration it would be a lot easier to actually deal with the problem at its source.”