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Supreme Court Allows Texas Law Allowing Police to Arrest Border Migrants

Supreme Court lifts stay on Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants at border

On Tuesday, a Supreme Court divided in its stance lifted a stay on a Texas law granting police extensive powers to arrest migrants suspected of crossing the border unlawfully. This decision comes amidst an ongoing legal tussle over immigration authority.

The Biden administration is contesting the law, asserting that it violates federal authority, potentially harming international relations and causing disorder in administering immigration regulations. Texas, on the other hand, argues its right to intervene in what it terms an ongoing crisis at the southern border.

Critics dub the law, known as Senate Bill 4, as the most significant attempt by a state to regulate immigration since an Arizona law over a decade ago, parts of which were nullified by the Supreme Court. Detractors also raise concerns about potential civil rights infringements and racial profiling stemming from the Texas law.

Although a federal judge in Texas invalidated the law in late February, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals promptly halted that ruling, prompting the federal government to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Allows Texas Law Allowing Police to Arrest Border Migrants

Supreme Court Allows Texas Law Allowing Police to Arrest Border Migrants (Credits: USA Today)

In a departure from the norm in emergency appeals, the majority did not furnish a detailed opinion. However, liberal justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented vehemently against letting the law come into effect.

Sotomayor, in a scathing dissent, contended that allowing Texas to implement the law would foster more chaos and crisis, disrupting the federal-state power balance established over a century.

Kagan, in a separate dissent, criticized the 5th Circuit’s decision, arguing that it should not dictate the adherence to well-established immigration law.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, alongside conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, indicated in a concurring opinion that her vote for Texas was rooted in procedural nuances rather than substantive agreement with the state’s law.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals retains the authority to potentially block the law once more, with both sides having the option to return to the Supreme Court following the 5th Circuit’s actions.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas welcomed the ruling, expressing it as a “positive development,” though acknowledging that the constitutionality of the law is still under review by an appeals court.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Eddie Guerra of Hidalgo County and president of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, representing 31 border counties from Texas to California, expressed skepticism regarding the law’s survival in a constitutional challenge, citing the lack of training for Texas peace officers in immigration matters.

The legal clash over the Texas immigration law is one among several disputes between Texas officials and the Biden administration concerning the extent of state authority to monitor the Texas-Mexico border and deter illegal border crossings.

Several Republican governors have thrown their support behind Governor Greg Abbott’s initiatives, arguing that the federal government’s enforcement of existing immigration laws is inadequate.

In 2012, the Supreme Court invalidated key sections of an Arizona law permitting police to apprehend individuals for federal immigration breaches, a move often criticized as the “show me your papers” bill. The divided court then ruled that the impasse in Washington over immigration reform did not warrant state intervention.

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