AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is working with former Trump administration officials to sue the Biden administration over immigration policy. This is the latest example of his agency’s increasing reliance on outside lawyers for high profile cases.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court last week, alleges that the Biden government is increasing the risk for Texans of catching COVID-19 by allowing migrants from Mexico to enter the United States.
For help with the lawsuit, Paxton’s office reached out to America First Legal, a group that several former Trump administration officials launched this month to reportedly organize lawsuits for Republican attorneys general. The company’s founders include former White House advisor and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, a conservative brand known for supporting former President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
In a press release, Miller praised Paxton, a Conservative Republican who is up for re-election next year.
“Attorney General Paxton is a true national hero who tirelessly fights for the rule of law and the basic welfare of every Texan and every other American citizen,” said Miller.
Paxton has repeatedly sued the federal government since taking office in 2015 to target the Obama administration for its environmental and social policies and then, when Trump was elected, to use his complaints as a signal to the government about the Democratic Politics should be decided.
The partnership with America First Legal is noteworthy as Texas typically has no formal agreements with partisan organizations to litigate these high profile cases. This emerges from five years of outside consulting contracts that The Dallas Morning News received upon request from public records.
The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to requests for comment as to whether America First Legal is helping with the pro bono immigration lawsuit or whether it will incriminate the state for its work on the case. The messages requested a copy of a contract drawn up with the organization but have not yet received it from the office.
In addition to the lawsuit against President Joe Biden, Paxton has had close ties with Trump since the former president’s defeat. The attorney general spoke at the January 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington, DC, which preceded an attack on the U.S. Capitol, and visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in February for a photo with him posed on the golf course.
By targeting Trump, who is still popular with Conservative voters in the state, Paxton could try to fend off potential GOP key challengers in 2022, political scientists said. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a Republican, has indicated that he is considering running and raised concerns about recent criminal charges against Paxton.
Last fall, eight of the Paxton agency’s executives accused of misusing his office to help a campaign donor. The FBI is reportedly investigating the allegations. Paxton has denied wrongdoing.
Since 2015 he has also been charged with alleged securities fraud. Paxton has denied all charges against him, but has not yet brought them to justice.
The partnership between the Conservative Republican Attorney General and America First Legal is the “perfect marriage” to advance the Trump-era agenda, said Eddy Carder, assistant professor of constitutional law and philosophy at Prairie View A&M University.
“This would fit perfectly with the goal of targeting conservatives in the state of Texas,” he said.
The immigration lawsuit marks the third time since last fall that Paxton has tapped attorneys outside of the agency for major litigation, some of which are very partisan or controversial.
Late last year, Paxton signed agreements with two outside law firms to lead the state’s antitrust lawsuit against Google. That partnership could cost Texas taxpayers $ 43 million in legal and related costs, according to the state’s contract with the outside law firm, which lists hourly rates of up to $ 945 for senior attorneys. Texas leads a group of 10 Republican attorneys general in this legal challenge against the tech giant.
After Donald Trump lost re-election, Paxton brought in another independent attorney in December to question the election results in four battlefield states run by Biden. This lawyer worked for free. The US Supreme Court declined to take the case.
In Paxton’s office, a newly hired attorney is representing the agency on the immigration lawsuit. Aaron Reitz, who graduated from law school in 2017, joined the agency last fall, just before several top employees left the company after accusing Paxton of bribery and abuse of office.
Reitz was promoted to Assistant Attorney General for Legal Strategy after the staff exodus and received a $ 70,000 raise, according to his personnel file. He now makes $ 205,000 a year, just like the agency’s other top employees.
On Thursday Reitz tweeted about the immigration lawsuit.
“Thanks to Biden, virus-infected illegal aliens are being released into the country in large numbers, many of whom have been smuggled and housed in extremely unsanitary conditions,” he wrote. “How much sooner would Texas be fully open if we didn’t have to deal with this problem?”
Gene Hamilton, vice president and general counsel at America First Legal, is also listed as an attorney on the Texas case. Hamilton served as an advisor to the US Attorney General under Trump.
America First Legal and the US Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Miller announced that America First Legal would partner with state agriculture commissioner Sid Miller on another lawsuit alleging government aid programs discriminate against white farmers and ranchers, according to the Austin American-Statesman.