Supreme Court extends pause on Texas law allowing state police to arrest migrants

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito once again extended his freeze of a Texas law enabling state law enforcement to arrest people they suspect are illegally entering the United States from Mexico.

For a second time, Alito on Monday extended his administrative pause as the court weighs the Biden administration’s emergency application seeking to block the law for a longer period.

Alito issued his extension since he handles emergency matters arising from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, like the case at hand. The conservative justice’s brief order came without explanation and does not signal how he or the full court would ultimately rule.

But unlike his previous orders, Alito’s newest pause lasts until a “further order” from him or the full court. His previous two pauses automatically ended at a given time, and the latest iteration was expiring late Monday afternoon just as Alito handed down his extension.

The Justice Department is urging the justices to block the law, passed by Texas’s Republican-controlled Legislature last year, asserting it is an “unprecedented intrusion into federal immigration enforcement.”

“There is no ambiguity in SB4,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote to the justices. “It is flatly inconsistent with federal law in all its applications, and it is therefore preempted on its face.”

Signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), the far-reaching statute makes illegal immigration a state crime, enabling state and local law enforcement the authority to arrest undocumented migrants, who could then face deportation or jail time.

In defending the law, Texas argued the state has a constitutional right to defend itself and the Biden administration was unwilling or unable to defend the border.

“Plaintiffs urge the Court to rush straight to the merits of their claims,” the state responded in court papers. “But these cases do not belong in federal court at all—even apart from the fact that no state court has yet had an opportunity to construe any provision of S.B.4.”

The Justice Department’s emergency motion is joined by a similar application filed by the County of El Paso, Texas, and two immigrant rights groups.

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