Biden Administration Appeals Strict Texas Immigration Law To The United States Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has granted an administrative stay, temporarily halting the enforcement of Texas’ stringent immigration law, SB 4. This decision came after the Biden administration sought the court’s intervention.

The law has been temporarily halted until March 13 at 5:00 P.M. (EDT) to allow the justices to determine the next steps. Additionally, Justice Alito has granted Texas until the evening of March 11 to provide a response to the Biden administration’s request.

The Justice Department has requested the Supreme Court to lift a stay issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This stay had overruled an injunction granted by a lower court last Thursday, which had temporarily invalidated the law.

In a recent court filing, lawyers from the Justice Department expressed their concerns about the imminent implementation of SB4, stating that it would have a significant impact on the longstanding relationship between the United States and the States in the context of immigration. The lawyers emphasized the urgency of the situation, as SB4 is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 10, 2024.

The law, called SB 4, grants local and state law enforcement the authority to detain migrants whom they believe entered the state unlawfully. Additionally, judges would be empowered to direct migrants to be taken to a port of entry and sent back to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed his jubilation on social media when the ruling to overturn last week’s decision was announced earlier on Monday. In a post, he declared, “BREAKING HUGE NEWS. The federal appeals court has given the green light for the Texas immigration law to be enforced. Law enforcement officers in Texas are now empowered to apprehend and detain any individuals crossing the border illegally.”

The Biden administration maintains the position that immigration law falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, rather than local authorities. This stance was reiterated in the recent filing with the Supreme Court.

According to the Court, it has consistently acknowledged that the management of noncitizen entry and removal is closely connected to foreign relations and is exclusively entrusted to the Federal Government.

Texas argues that it has the authority to arrest migrants under the State War Clause of the Constitution. This clause allows states to take action when they are facing an actual invasion or imminent danger that cannot be delayed.

Abbott has consistently described the situation at the southern border as an invasion. In January, he stated, “I have already declared an invasion under Article I, § 10, Clause 3 to invoke Texas’s constitutional authority to defend and protect itself.”

According to the Justice Department, the clause “has no application here.”

According to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, it is clear that a surge of unauthorized immigration cannot be considered an invasion as defined by the State War Clause. Furthermore, even if it were an invasion, the Clause does not give states the authority to challenge the federal government’s response to such an invasion. In this case, Congress has already addressed this matter by enacting the INA, and the State War Clause does not exempt Texas from the Supremacy Clause or the principles of preemption it upholds.

In his recent ruling, Judge David A. Ezra expressed a similar viewpoint, stating that the increase in immigration cannot be considered an “invasion” as defined by the Constitution. He also emphasized that the enforcement of SB 4 does not amount to a declaration of war by Texas.

Governor Abbott signed the law in December, causing outrage among immigrant civil rights organizations nationwide. These organizations are concerned that the law will lead to racial profiling of migrants, making it difficult to enforce. First-time offenders, if convicted under the law, could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be ordered to return to Mexico. For repeat offenders, the penalty can be as severe as 20 years in prison. Judge Ezra also emphasized that the law would result in “irreparable harm” if implemented.

Ezra expressed concern over the potential consequences of SB 4, stating that if passed, it could pave the way for each state to enact its own immigration laws. This, in turn, would undermine the uniform regulation of immigration across the nation and compel the federal government to navigate through a complex web of inconsistent regulations. Ultimately, SB 4 jeopardizes the fundamental principle that immigration should be regulated with a unified approach throughout the United States.

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