Supreme Court blocks Texas from enforcing controversial immigration law for now

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the Supreme Court allowed Texas to begin enforcing its immigration law, wiping away an indefinite stay against the law that was issued the day before. Read the latest developments here.

The Supreme Court on Monday indefinitely blocked Texas from enforcing an immigration law that would allow state officials to arrest and detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally.

The so-called administrative stay will remain in place while the court considers emergency appeals from the Biden administration and others, who want the justices to block enforcement of the law while their legal challenges to it play out. Monday’s order does not include an expiration date for the stay.

The order came from Justice Samuel Alito because he oversees matters arising from the appeals court that is currently weighing the case.

Senate Bill 4, signed into law by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in December, immediately raised concerns among immigration advocates of increased racial profiling as well as detentions and attempted deportations by state authorities in Texas, where Latinos represent 40% of the population.

“The Supreme Court has temporarily halted enforcement of SB 4, but it didn’t halt Texas’ pre-existing authority to arrest for criminal trespass and other violations of the law,” Abbott said in a statement Monday, adding that “Texas will continue utilizing every tool and strategy to respond to this Biden-made border crisis.”

The Justice Department has argued that the law would “profoundly” alter the status quo “that has existed between the United States and the States in the context of immigration for almost 150 years.”

“People can disagree about immigration. They always have. And Texas may be deeply concerned about recent immigration,” attorneys for a pair of immigration groups and El Paso County wrote in court papers. “But the same was true of California in the 1870s, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the 1930s, and Arizona in 2012. Nevertheless, for 150 years this Court has made clear that states are not allowed to regulate the core immigration field of entry and removal.”

A federal judge in Austin, Texas, had blocked the state government from implementing the law. But the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of the lower court’s decision and said the law would take effect on March 10 if the Supreme Court didn’t act. The pair of appeals soon followed, and Alito issued the administrative stay on March 4.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, and other officials told the Supreme Court that the “Constitution recognizes that Texas has the sovereign right to defend itself from violent transnational cartels that flood the State with fentanyl, weapons, and all manner of brutality.”

The state officials described Texas in court papers as being “the nation’s first-line defense against transnational violence” and said the state has been “forced to deal with the deadly consequences of the federal government’s inability or unwillingness to protect the border.”

Oral arguments at the 5th Circuit are scheduled for next month.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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