Supreme Court blocks implementation of controversial Texas immigration law

The US Supreme Court has voted to freeze the implementation of SB4, a new Texas law that would allow police officers to arrest anyone they suspect of illegally crossing the border.

According to an order of the court issued on Monday, which was written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the Texas legislation now won’t take effect until 13 March. The court is expected to review the case and issue a ruling by then about whether the law can move forward.

Last week, US District Judge David Alan Ezra blocked the law from going into effect. But on Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that the legislation could be enforced. Immigrant groups and the Biden administration quickly intervened and filed a request with the Supreme Court asking the judges to stop the law from being implemented.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter, “Federal appeals court allows Texas immigration law to take effect. Law enforcement officers in Texas are now authorised to arrest and jail any illegal immigrants crossing the border.”

He added: “Obviously this is the case unless the Supreme Court intervenes by 9 March”. If the Supreme Court hadn’t issued an order, the law would have been implemented on 10 March.

Under the law, police could begin to charge anyone they believe of entering the US without authorisation with “illegal entry”, a new state crime punishable by up to six months in prison. Anyone who has entered the US before or who has been deported can face 10 to 20 years in prison if detained.

In certain circumstances, judges may allow arrested individuals to enter deportation proceedings. Anyone ordered to leave the country who chooses not to could be handed an additional charge of refusing to comply with the state’s deportation order, punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Responding to the Supreme Court decision, the American Civil Liberties Union called the legislation “the most extreme anti-immigration law passed by any state legislature in the country.” The organisation argues that the law is a violation of the US Constitution.

“We have long warned that this law will separate families, lead to racial profiling across the state, and harm people across the state as Governor Abbott continues his relentless campaign against people who are immigrants,” the organisation continued.

“We urge the Supreme Court to undo the appeals court’s administrative stay and preserve the decision keeping this harmful law from going into effect.”