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Immigration Advocates Sue Brnovich, DHS Over Trump-Era Agreement

Three immigration advocacy organizations are suing Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleging an agreement Brnovich signed with DHS in the waning days of the Trump administration is unenforceable.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Arizona, alleges Ken Cuccinelli, a top official at DHS under former President Donald Trump, held his position unlawfully and had no authority to sign an agreement with Arizona and other states. 

Those agreements require DHS, even under a new administration, to provide states like Arizona 180 days’ notice before changing certain immigration policies, and give those same states input into policy changes.

Brnovich sued the department in February,  alleging President Joe Biden’s attempt to pause deportations for 100 days violated the agreement.

Isis Gil, communications director for the Puente Human Rights Movement, said the agreement was designed to give Republicans a chance to throw up roadblocks now that Biden is in the White House.

“That basically was just trying to stymie and stop any real reform from the Biden administration coming in,” Gil said. “We as an organization, as Puente, realize that is not something that would be at all helpful to our people, or in regards of the legitimacy of any type of immigration reform.”

Puente was joined by Chicanos Por La Causa and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project as plaintiffs in the case. In their complaint, attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund argue that Cuccinelli was unlawfully elevated to a role as second-in-command at DHS.

“Because Cuccinelli never lawfully assumed the office of Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and never lawfully assumed the functions, duties, and powers of that office, he lacked any lawful authority to execute the SAFE Agreement,” attorneys wrote in the complaint.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.