Controversial Texas immigration law put on hold again by U.S. Supreme Court ‘pending further order’

Implementation of SB 4, a Texas law that allows local and state police officers to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally, was once again put on hold Monday by the United States Supreme Court.

By Julián Aguilar, The Texas NewsroomMarch 18, 2024 4:09 pm,

From The Texas Newsroom:

A Texas law that allows local and state police officers to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally has been kept on hold by the United States Supreme Court “pending further order from the court.”

The latest development came a few minutes after a previous pause in the law’s implementation expired Monday afternoon.

Senate Bill 4 was passed in late 2023 as part of a priority package of immigration and border security bills championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and other far-right leaders. The legislation also permits local judges to order a migrant to return to Mexico regardless of their nationality.

Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have argued the law is necessary due to what they say are President Joe Biden’s border policies that have led to a record number of asylum seekers entering the United States.

The bill was originally scheduled to take effect March 5, but it’s implementation was temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge David Ezra.

On Feb. 29, Ezra ruled the law is likely unconstitutional because the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration matters.

The state of Texas immediately appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As that case is pending, the U.S. Supreme Court has once again delayed the law’s implementation.

The lawsuit challenging SB 4 was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights project on behalf of El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and El Paso County. It names Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks as defendants.

The groups alleged that the law would lead to racial profiling of Texans across the state.

separate lawsuit was later filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the two were consolidated. The lawsuits also alleged the law was unconstitutional because immigration enforcement is solely the responsibility of the federal government.

ACLU of Texas legal director Adriana Piñon told The Texas Newsroom that, while the future of the bill remains unclear, Monday’s move by the high court should allow Texans of color to breathe easier — at least for now.

“Every day that SB 4 is not in effect and not allowed to be enforced is a day where Texans can live safely without fear of law enforcement pulling them over,” she said.

Piñon said what happens next isn’t immediately known since an appeal of Ezra’s ruling is still pending before the appeals court.

“It’s unclear when the Supreme Court will issue its next order,” she said. “Whether that’s another extension or a decision on the request to vacate [the Fifth Circuit’s order] that we submitted, it could be either.”

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after the decision Monday.

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