WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday breathed new life into a Biden administration Policy that will set immigration enforcement priorities by focusing on threats to public safety.
The justices, in an 8-1 vote, overturned a Texas-based federal judge’s ruling in June of last year that blocked the policy across the country. It had previously been in effect for less than a year.
Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the majority that the challengers had no legal standing to sue over the plan, which centered on the long-standing discretion federal officials have in enforcing laws.
Kavanaugh wrote that the lawsuit brought by Texas and Louisiana was «extraordinarily unusual» and sought to «direct the executive branch to modify its arrest policies to make more arrests.»
But federal courts don’t normally hear such cases, he added.
Kavanaugh said «other forums remain open» for states to voice their concerns, noting actions Congress can take.
«We do not take an opinion on whether such actions are appropriate in this case,» it added.
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito was the lone dissent, saying the court had concluded that «the only limit to a president’s power to disobey a law such as the important provision in question is the power of Congress to employ the weapons of war between powers.» «.
The ruling was welcomed by immigrant rights advocates. Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director for the American Immigration Council, said it means officials have more leeway to use their discretion and focus on the most serious cases.
In rejecting the states’ lawsuit, the judges made it clear that «courts should not be in the business of directing law enforcement decision-making and should stop states from contemplating using the courts to further a political strategy,» he added.
Announced in September 2021, President Joe Biden’s plan moved away from the hardline enforcement approach Donald Trump took as president. The Biden administration argued that with an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, the government must prioritize certain cases because it does not have the resources to detain and deport all of them.
Texas and Louisiana immediately challenged the plan in court, arguing that federal immigration law requires that certain illegal immigrants, including those convicted of felonies, human trafficking and some weapons offenses, must be detained after being released from prison. criminal custody. Biden’s policy, which required an individual assessment of whether an immigrant is a threat to public safety or national security while the government begins removal proceedings, would challenge that requirement, the states say.
Lawyers for the Biden administration argued that the president has broad discretion to set enforcement priorities.
In the ruling blocking the policy, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton said Texas had standing because it could show that immigrants who should have been detained were in Texas and in some cases had committed crimes.
Tipton discovered that the policy was illegal and that the government did not follow the correct procedure to implement it.
Republicans have frequently accused Biden of a lax approach to law enforcement and border security, which they argue has led to a rise in crime and an increase in the number of people entering illegally. to the United States.
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in July 2022 to reject the Biden administration’s request to immediately restore the policy, but agreed to accept the government’s appeal.
Friday’s ruling was one of two on immigration-related issues won by the Biden administration. The court also upheld a federal law that criminalizes the inducement to illegal immigration.