United States

Biden administration asks Supreme Court to block Texas from arresting migrants under SB4 law

Eagle Pass, Texas — The Biden administration on Monday asked the Supreme Court to block Texas from enforcing an immigration law known as SB4 that would allow state law enforcement officials to arrest migrants suspected of crossing into the U.S. without authorization.

One of the most far-reaching state immigration laws in modern U.S. history, SB4 would empower Texas law enforcement officials to stop, jail and prosecute migrants on state criminal charges of illegal entry or reentry. It would also allow state judges to issue de facto deportation orders against suspected violators of the law.  

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra granted a request from the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union and temporarily blocked Texas state officials from enforcing SB4, which was set to take effect on Tuesday. He ruled that immigration arrests and deportations are federal responsibilities and rejected Texas’ argument that the state is facing an “invasion” by migrants. 

But at Texas’ request, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals over the weekend suspended Ezra’s order on administrative grounds while it hears the merits of an appeal. Absent action from the Supreme Court, Texas will be allowed to implement SB4 on Saturday, March 9.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who signed SB4 in December, has argued the law is needed to reduce migrant crossings, accusing the Biden administration of not doing enough to deter illegal immigration. Texas state troopers have already been arresting some migrants on trespassing charges, but SB4 would allow them to make arrests without the collaboration of property owners.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, has said SB4 interferes with federal immigration enforcement, ignores U.S. asylum law and jeopardizes foreign relations with the Mexican government, which has denounced the state law as an “anti-immigrant” measure.

“[B]eyond its disruptive foreign relations effects, SB4 would create chaos in the United States’ efforts to administer federal immigration laws in Texas,” the Justice Department said in its filing to the Supreme Court on Monday.

The legal fight over SB4 is one of many clashes between Texas and President Biden over immigration policy. The two sides have clashed over razor wire and buoys that Texas officials have assembled near or in the middle of the Rio Grande. Since January, Texas National Guard soldiers have also blocked federal Border Patrol agents from processing migrants in a public park in Eagle Pass.

At Abbott’s direction, Texas has bused tens of thousands of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to large, Democratic-led cities, including New York, Chicago and Denver.

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