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Summary

In this case, Arizona challenges at least five different immigration-related policies of the Biden Administration, principally based on an environmental law statute.  Arizona’s main contention is that since the various policies could result in an increase in the U.S. population, and because that increase in population could have an environmental impact, the Biden Administration was required to (but did not) fulfill extensive procedural requirements before implementing the challenged policies.  Arizona seeks a court order enjoining (blocking) the challenged policies.

Soon after filing suit, Arizona moved for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to issue an order blocking the challenged policies while this lawsuit proceeds to final judgment.  After briefing and oral argument, Judge Lanza issued an opinion on February 7, 2022 that denied Arizona’s motion for a preliminary injunction in all respects.  On April 8, 2022, Arizona appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On April 28, 2022, Judge Lanza issued an opinion and order that dismissed most of Arizona’s claims and reserved the possibility of dismissing the remaining claims soon.  He ordered the parties to submit briefing on the remaining claims (regarding the end of the “Remain in Mexico” policy) after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Biden v. Texas (which occurred on June 30). Following that briefing, on August 15, 2022, Arizona filed a second amended complaint to try to address the deficiencies in their prior complaint that were identified by Judge Lanza in his April 28, 2022 opinion. 

The parties finished briefing the Biden Administration’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint in December 2022.

Technical Summary

Arizona’s amended complaint challenges at least the following (alleged) policies or actions, which Arizona collectively dubs the “Population Augmentation Program”:  (1) a cessation of border wall construction; (2) the attempted termination of the Remain in Mexico (aka “RMX”) program;  (3) a change in policy regarding when migrants should be assessed fines for failing to comply with departure orders; (4) newly created exceptions to the “Title 42” CDC orders; and (5) immigration enforcement guidance, issued in February 2021, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to consider when prioritizing cases for enforcement and deportation (e.g. whether an individual is a national security or public safety threat).  Arizona alleges that the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) required the Biden Administration to prepare a “programmatic” environmental impact statement (EIS) for this alleged “Population Augmentation Program.”  

In addition, Arizona challenges the alleged cessation of border wall construction and the termination of RMX as independently violative of NEPA, as well as on other grounds.

Judge Lanza’s decision denying the motion for a preliminary injunction was premised in significant part on Arizona’s apparent lack of standing for at least some of its claims.  In response, Arizona filed a motion for jurisdictional discovery, arguing that information it needs to establish its standing is in the possession of the federal government. 

Judge Lanza’s April 28 opinion dismissed four (of seven counts) and it noted that another had been withdrawn by Arizona.  On the two remaining counts, Judge Lanza ordered the parties to address mootness in supplemental briefing after the Biden v. Texas decision issues.  Judge Lanza’s opinion also denied Arizona’s motion for jurisdictional discovery as both untimely and futile.  Arizona later sought reconsideration of the denial of its motion for jurisdictional discovery, which Judge Lanza denied on June 27, 2022.

 

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