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Supreme Court deals major blow to Texas, Louisiana in deportation lawsuit

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The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Texas and Louisiana Friday in a lawsuit over a Biden administration policy that’s helped effectively end most deportations of foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally.

Rather than rule on the merits of the case, in United States v. Texas, the court ruled 8-1 that the states didn’t have standing, or a legal right, to challenge the policy.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the sole dissent, arguing the justices ignored “a major precedent.”

He wrote, “The Court holds Texas lacks standing to challenge a federal policy that inflicts substantial harm on the State and its residents by releasing illegal aliens with criminal convictions for serious crimes. In order to reach this conclusion, the Court brushes aside a major precedent that directly controls the standing question, refuses to apply our established test for standing, disregards factual findings made by the District Court after a trial, and holds that the only limit on the power of a President to disobey a law like the important provision at issue is Congress’s power to employ the weapons of inter-branch warfare – withholding funds, impeachment and removal, etc. I would not blaze this unfortunate trail. I would simply apply settled law, which leads ineluctably to the conclusion that Texas has standing.”

Last June, a federal judge in Texas, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, ruled in favor of Texas and Louisiana, arguing they would incur costs due to the federal government’s failure to comply with federal immigration law and deportation policies. The judge ruled the states had standing to sue because of these costs. He also vacated the deportation policy, arguing it was unlawful.

The Biden administration appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which again handed a victory to the states by declining to stay the lower court’s ruling. The Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted cert. Last fall, the court heard oral arguments and on Friday ruled the states lacked Article III standing.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the majority and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a different opinion saying the states didn’t have standing for a different reason than the one Kavanaugh gave. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett also wrote her own concurring opinion and was joined by Gorsuch.

At issue is a final memorandum, “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law,” issued by Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, drastically altering deportation policies, including limiting issuing detainer requests for dangerous criminal aliens.

In Mayorkas’ final September 2021 memorandum, he also challenged federal law established by Congress that illegal entry is a crime in itself and a deportable offense. The policy states: “The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country’s well-being require it.”

Many news organizations reported the Supreme Court ruling would allow the administration to prioritize deporting violent criminals. But under the current administration, deportations immediately dropped by two-thirds in the first fiscal year of the administration, according to CBP data. In fiscal 2021, deportations also dropped to the lowest level since fiscal 1996 despite record-high illegal entries.

Mayorkas’ policy also followed President Joe Biden’s directive, who after taking office ordered a “pause” on deportations.

Last July, 19 attorneys general filed an amicus brief expressing support for Texas’ and Louisiana’s lawsuit, arguing Mayorkas violated federal law and DHS’s actions negatively impacted their states and jeopardized the safety and welfare of Americans.

The AGs argued, and still maintain, “The Amici States and their citizens continue to suffer significant costs from illegal immigration – including billions of dollars in new expenses relating to law enforcement, education, and healthcare programs – as a direct result of Defendants’ failures to enforce immigration law. Those harms are exacerbated by DHS’ increasingly brazen disrespect for the requirements of our nation’s immigration laws and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The border is in crisis,” they argued. “This DHS Administration is lawless. And the States continue to suffer escalating irreparable harm as the border crisis continually intensifies to successive, ever-more unprecedented levels of illegal crossings.”

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