U.S. Supreme Court Halts Texas Immigration Law Enforcement Power

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court put a temporary stop to the application of Texas's immigration legislation, which would have given state law enforcement the authority to hold and arrest anyone they believe are entering the nation illegally.

Effectively delaying the execution of SB4 until March 13, Justice Samuel Alito, who presides over the federal circuit overseeing the case, imposed an administrative stay. This brief stoppage gives the Supreme Court more time to consider the matter, but it does not reveal the court's final position.

In an emergency motion, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to stop Texas from applying the legislation on Monday. SB4 would provide state law enforcement agents the authority to apprehend and punish recent border crossers who are illegal aliens.

Entering Texas unlawfully from abroad or returning there would be a state offense under Texas law. State courts may order people to leave the nation, with possible jail terms of up to 20 years for those who do not comply. State and municipal law enforcement would also have the ability to arrest and punish offenders. Without the high court's intervention, the bill would have taken effect on Tuesday.

In response to a plea from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra last week temporarily stopped Texas state authorities from implementing SB4. Judge Ezra dismissed Texas's argument that it can police its border in the event of a "invasion" by illegal immigrants, holding that immigration arrests and deportations are the purview of the federal government.

But Texas asked the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to postpone Judge Ezra's ruling on administrative grounds over the weekend, while the court considered the merits of an appeal.

In response to the petition from the Department of Justice, Justice Alito postponed the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling until March 13, giving Texas until the end of next Monday to submit its case (pdf). In the event that Texas wins at the Supreme Court, SB4 may go into effect on March 13 at 5:00 p.m. ET.


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