The United States Supreme Court has sided with President Joe Biden’s administration in a major court struggle with Texas and Louisiana over the government’s jurisdiction to implement new standards for immigration enforcement that prioritize responding to threats to public safety.
An earlier judgment blocking the DHS rules, which restrict the class of people who may be targeted for arrest and deportation by immigration officers, has been overturned by an 8-1 decision. This ruling underlines the authority of the executive branch to enforce federal law and decide whom to arrest and prosecute, even in immigration cases.
The new direction for U.S. immigration policy articulated by President Biden is a response to the stricter stance taken by President Trump’s administration. Biden’s policy gives agents more leeway to evaluate individual situations when deciding whether or not to capture and deport non-citizens who pose dangers to national security, public safety, or border security.
Republican attorneys general from Texas and Louisiana sued to overturn Biden’s policy. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that neither state had sufficient jurisdiction to pursue the case.
Supreme Court Decision
Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion, which upheld the government’s right to strictly execute the law. Kavanaugh stressed that lawsuits claiming a lack of arrests or prosecutions are an infringement on the power of the executive branch. To paraphrase what he said: “The executive branch – not the judiciary – makes arrests and prosecutes offenses on behalf of the United States.”
Samuel Alito, a conservative justice, wrote a dissenting opinion.
Reactions and Implications
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas of the United States lauded the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying that the new standards would help the Department of Homeland Security better carry out its law enforcement responsibilities.
The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, took to Twitter to voice his fury over the verdict, saying that it gave the Biden administration “carte blanche to avoid accountability for abandoning enforcement of immigration laws.” Abbott said once again that the National Guard will be deployed in Texas to stop illegal immigration.
In July of last year, the Supreme Court dismissed Biden’s plea to stay a lower court’s finding and reinstall the new standards, thus this decision is a departure from that. There were four justices who disagreed with the majority in that case: three liberals and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative. The majority opinion issued on Friday was supported by all four justices.
On the same day, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s judgment that struck down a federal statute making it unlawful to advocate for illegal immigration, citing free speech safeguards in the Constitution. The statute had been protected during Biden’s administration.
Republican critics of President Biden’s immigration policies point to his easing of detentions and deportations as evidence that more people are crossing the border illegally. Both Biden and Trump, who are both running for president in 2024, have made immigration a central plank of their campaigns.
Previous Legal Proceedings
In June 2022, Trump appointee and U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton sided with Texas and Louisiana, temporarily halting enforcement of the immigration program throughout the country. The Supreme Court essentially halted the execution of the rules the next month after voting 5-4 to not block Tipton’s order.