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US asks Supreme Court to stop Texas immigration law

Texas law would allow state officials to arrest, deport on their own

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the state measure into law, speaks at a press conference along the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the state measure into law, speaks at a press conference along the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Raquel Natalicchio/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court on Monday to halt implementation of a Texas law that would allow state officials to deport immigrants on their own.

The application, the latest in the slew of ongoing court fights over Texas policies targeting undocumented immigrants, said lower court decisions last week mean the state’s immigrant removal law, known as S.B. 4, could go into effect as soon as next week.

Unless the justices intervene, illegally crossing from Mexico into Texas would become a state crime, and Texas state courts could order the removal of immigrants even if they have pending asylum claims, the DOJ said.

Prior Supreme Court decisions have held “the authority to admit and remove noncitizens is a core responsibility of the National Government, and that where Congress has enacted a law addressing those issues, state law is preempted,” the Biden administration brief said.

Later Monday, the Supreme Court issued an administrative pause on the state law until next Wednesday as they consider the government’s application.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in December, and the Biden administration challenged it in federal court.

Last week, Judge David Alan Ezra in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an order that temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing the law, writing that it likely violated the constitutional structure.

“SB 4 threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice,” Ezra wrote.

But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton criticized the ruling as an “incorrect decision” in a press release following the ruling and appealed.

“Texas has a clear right to defend itself from the drug smugglers, human traffickers, cartels, and legions of illegal aliens crossing into our State as a consequence of the Biden Administration’s deliberate policy choices,” Paxton said.

On Saturday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in a brief order, paused the district court ruling and allowed Texas to implement the law March 10 unless the Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court.

The DOJ said this risked “profoundly altering the status quo that has existed between the United States and the States in the context of immigration for almost 150 years.”

The litigation is part of a broader court struggle over immigration between Texas, national Republicans and the Biden administration, including a border standoff where Texas officials denied Border Patrol access to the Texas border.

In that case, the justices overturned the lower court ruling that prevented Border Patrol from accessing the border.

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