The federal lawsuit seeks a halt to the deportation moratorium “for certain noncitizens” that was to begin Friday. Biden has already signed a raft of executive orders, including one revoking Trump’s mandate that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.
“Our state defends the largest section of the southern border in the nation. Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel,” Paxton said.
Texas claims the moratorium violates an agreement, signed in the last weeks of Trump’s presidency, that required the federal government to run changes to immigration enforcement past the state first.
The Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the White House, which did not immediately respond.
The lawsuit, which repeatedly cites Texas’ agreement with the Trump administration, was filed before U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, in the Southern District of Texas.
Since taking office Wednesday, Biden has made quick action to would unwind many of Trump’s immigration orders. His first steps included stopping the construction of a border wall with Mexico and lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries.
Biden also said he will push to give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1, an estimated 11 million people.
Texas shares more than 1,200 miles of border with Mexico, which the state’s Republican leaders say makes them particularly invested in the nation’s immigration policies. It also received thousands of refugees annually before Trump virtually ended admissions.
The state is currently leading a fight to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Obama instituted in 2012 that confers limited protections on immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Friday’s lawsuit echoes many of the same arguments Texas is making against DACA, that immigrants without authorization drain educational and health-care resources. Supporters of immigrant protections say those arguments are flawed and that immigrants help the state’s economy and health-care sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But battles over enforcement during the Obama administration have also provided Texas politicians a ready-made national platform, including former Gov. Rick Perry, who ran twice for president, and Gov. Greg Abbott, a potential 2024 contender who bragged as state attorney general that his job was to sue the federal government and go home.
The FBI is investigating Paxton, who was a loyal Trump ally, over accusations by top former aides that he abused his office at the service of a donor. Separately, Paxton has pleaded not guilty in state court to felony charges of defrauding investor in a case that has dragged on for five years.
This lawsuit is one of the first of the new administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.