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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Wants Quick Action In Immigration Appeal

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) -- After a lower-court judge rejected the state's arguments, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants a federal appeals court to quickly take up a challenge to immigration-enforcement moves by President Joe Biden's administration.

Moody last week asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for "expedited" consideration after U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell turned down a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that Moody filed in March against the Biden administration.

The motion filed at the Atlanta-based appeals court contends that the federal government has shirked "mandatory obligations" in enforcing immigration laws.

"Congress requires that the executive branch arrest certain criminal aliens at the time they are released from criminal custody and detain them throughout their removal proceedings," the motion said. "The Biden Administration is refusing to do so, deciding instead to allow dangerous criminals to roam freely in Florida."

The federal government objects to expedited consideration, according to the state's motion.

The lawsuit focuses on memos issued Jan. 20 and Feb. 18 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about immigration enforcement, with Moody contending that the directives violate immigration laws and what is known as the Administrative Procedure Act.

But in rejecting the proposed preliminary injunction, Honeywell on May 18 ruled that the memos were "interim policies" that were not final actions by the federal agencies and, as a result, were not subject to judicial review. She also wrote that the memos prioritize immigration-enforcement decisions, such as focusing on cases involving national security, border security and public safety.

"The guidelines are just that; they are not statutes and do not have the status of law as they constitute a prioritization and not a prohibition of enforcement," Honeywell, a judge in the federal Middle District of Florida, wrote. "The policies do not change anyone's legal status nor do they prohibit the enforcement of any law or detention of any noncitizen. The prioritization scheme does not necessarily have a direct day-to-day impact on Florida, although certainly an indirect impact can be claimed."

Honeywell also wrote that she agreed with the federal government that the "memoranda reflect discretionary agency decisions related to the prioritization of immigration enforcement cases, which are presumptively not subject to judicial review."

"The ordering of priorities is not a refusal to act, but rather is a specific choice to act as it relates to certain matters over others," Honeywell wrote. "Here, Florida simply disagrees with the choices made by the Biden Administration as to the priorities."

But Moody's motion at the appeals court and the lawsuit raise the specter of a threat to public safety.

"(The) federal government is releasing more and more dangerous criminals --- including drug traffickers, burglars, aggravated stalkers and other violent offenders --- into Florida to reoffend," the motion said. "Nonetheless, the district court denied Florida's motion for a preliminary injunction, concluding that the federal government's reckless policies were not subject to judicial review."

The Jan. 20 memo from the Department of Homeland Security, in part, outlined that the agency was undertaking a review of policies and practices and said it was setting a 100-day "pause on certain removals to enable focusing the department's resources where they are most needed."

After a federal judge in Texas blocked the 100-day pause, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the Feb. 18 memo, which made revisions to the Jan. 20 directive and detailed "interim priorities" for enforcement actions. That included focusing on immigrants who pose national-security threats, have been convicted of aggravated felonies, have been convicted of gang-related activity or have been apprehended at the border since Nov. 1.

(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders contributed to this report.)

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