Biden Administration Seeks Supreme Court Block on Texas Immigration Law

The Biden administration urged the Supreme Court on Monday to prevent Texas from enforcing SB4, an immigration law that allows state law enforcement officials to arrest people suspected of crossing into the United States without authorization.

SB4, one of the most expansive state immigration laws in modern US history, would allow Texas law enforcement to arrest, detain, and prosecute migrants on state criminal charges of illegal entry or reentry. It would also allow state judges to issue de facto deportation orders for suspected lawbreakers.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra approved a plea from the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union to temporarily halt Texas state officials from executing SB4, which was slated to go into effect on Tuesday. He decided that immigration arrests and deportations are federal obligations, rejecting Texas’ claim that it is experiencing an “invasion” of migrants.

However, at Texas’ request, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals delayed Ezra’s ruling on administrative grounds this weekend while it hears an appeal. On Monday, when the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to intervene, Justice Samuel Alito stayed the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ order until Wednesday, March 13, and gave Texas until the end of the business day next Monday to present its case. If the Supreme Court rules with Texas, SB4 could go into force on March 13 at 5 p.m. ET.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who signed SB4 in December, has maintained that the bill is necessary to minimize migrant crossings, accusing the Biden administration of failing to dissuade illegal immigration. Texas state troopers have already arrested some migrants on trespassing charges, but SB4 would authorize them to make arrests without the permission of property owners.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, claims that SB4 interferes with federal immigration enforcement, disregards US asylum legislation, and jeopardizes foreign relations with the Mexican government, which has condemned the state bill as an “anti-immigrant” act.

“[B]eyond its disruptive foreign relations effects, SB4 would create chaos in the United States’ efforts to administer federal immigration laws in Texas,” the Justice Department stated in a Monday brief with the Supreme Court.

The court battle over SB4 is only one of several disagreements between Texas and President Biden over immigration policy. The two sides have battled over razor wire and buoys that Texas officials have placed near or in the middle of the Rio Grande. Since January, Texas National Guard members have prevented federal Border Patrol officials from processing migrants in a public park near Eagle Pass.

Under Abbott’s leadership, Texas has bused tens of thousands of migrants from the US-Mexico border to huge, Democratic-led cities such as New York, Chicago, and Denver.


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