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Supreme Court Halts Implementation of Texas Law Allowing Arrest and Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants

The U.S. Supreme Court intervened on March 4, delaying the enforcement of a new Texas law that grants law enforcement the authority to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. This decision, issued by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, puts the law, known as Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), on hold until at least 5 p.m. on March 13, as the Court deliberates on the case.

The chain of events leading to this legal maneuver commenced on February 29, when U.S. District Judge David Ezra blocked the implementation of SB 4. Judge Ezra rejected arguments advocating for the law, asserting that it would inflict “grave irreparable harm” to the federal government’s immigration enforcement efforts and dismissed claims of Texas facing an “invasion” of undocumented migrants.

However, the following day, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Ezra’s ruling, granting Texas the authority to proceed with SB 4. Subsequently, the Biden administration swiftly moved to appeal to the Supreme Court, seeking to maintain the stay on the law’s enforcement.

The federal government’s filing to the Supreme Court emphasized the potential disruption SB 4 would pose to the established federal immigration framework, warning against unilateral state determinations regarding immigration matters. The filing highlighted concerns over the law’s implications for foreign nationals and its impact on the nation’s broader interests.

SB 4, approved by Texas lawmakers last fall and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in December, carries significant consequences for undocumented migrants. If enacted, individuals could face imprisonment for up to six months or fines amounting to $2,000, with stiffer penalties for repeat offenders. Critics, including the U.S. Department of Justice, El Paso County, and immigrant rights groups, have contested the law’s constitutionality, alleging it could lead to racial profiling and violates federal immigration statutes.

The Supreme Court’s involvement in the SB 4 case marks a continuation of its scrutiny of state immigration enforcement laws. Notably, in 2012, the Court invalidated portions of an Arizona law that sought to criminalize undocumented presence within the state. Governor Abbott, echoing sentiments expressed in December, has expressed openness to a Supreme Court decision that could overturn past precedents regarding state immigration enforcement laws.