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Supreme Court Permits Biden Administration to Limit Immigration Arrests

In a major win for immigration reform and the Biden administration, the Supreme Court has ruled that it may reinstate rules to reduce overall immigration arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

The Court issued its 8-1 ruling in the case United States v. Texas in favor of the administration, stating that the executive branch has the broad power to dictate the enforcement of federal immigration laws. As a result, the administration will likely reinstate its previous order instructing ICE to focus on arresting and deporting only immigrants with serious criminal records. 

This ruling sets a significant precedent for immigration law nationwide. It also bars states and other parties from attempting to interfere with federal immigration enforcement via lawsuit. To grasp the impact of the case, it is important to understand how it arose.

Background on the United States v. Texas Immigration Case

The original lawsuit stems from a 2021 memo issued by the Biden administration to ICE. The memo instructed ICE to focus its resources on unauthorized immigrants with serious criminal records instead of the millions of undocumented people living in the country without committing other crimes. The intent of the memo was to ensure that the agency’s limited resources were used to apprehend and deport unauthorized immigrants most likely to be a danger to others.

However, officials in Texas and Louisiana challenged the memo, arguing that it prevented ICE agents from doing their jobs. When lower courts were persuaded to block the directive, the Supreme Court chose to hear the case. 

The justices agreed almost unanimously to deny the states’ case and permit the memo to proceed. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s majority opinion stated that affirming the states’ challenge would open the door to years of lawsuits regarding the under-enforcement of various laws. He clarified that the proper forum for this type of dispute was legislative, not judicial. As a result, the Biden immigration memo is no longer blocked, and it will likely return to effect in the coming months.

Impact of the Immigration Memo Ruling

The Supreme Court ruling is wholly beneficial to immigrants. Some of the most important impacts of the case include the following:

  • It permits the executive branch to narrow the enforcement of deportation laws. The US has a long history of nullifying laws by refusing to enforce them. The Supreme Court has now affirmed that the executive branch has the right to alter how laws are enforced, narrowing their scope. This opens the door to other memos that may benefit people struggling under restrictive immigration laws.
  • It bars states from demanding heavier enforcement of federal regulations. Ten states, including California, have enacted sanctuary laws protecting unauthorized immigrants from federal attention. This ruling prevents states from doing the opposite and demanding heavier federal enforcement of deportation laws.
  • It demonstrates that the Court may not bar other immigration-friendly policies by the Biden administration. States have successfully blocked several other immigration policies, such as a moratorium on deportations and a quick migrant release policy. This ruling may provide precedent to remove these blocks, should the cases make it to the Supreme Court. 
  • It reduces the likelihood of mistaken apprehensions and deportations. While the Biden memo is not in effect, ICE units may apprehend any supposedly unauthorized immigrant. Mistakes become more common when a team is focused on apprehending as many unauthorized residents as possible, and people with genuine visas or green cards may face unlawful confinement or deportation. The reinstatement of the memo should help reduce these cases.

In short, the United States v. Texas ruling sets positive precedents for immigration law, signals a less obstructive attitude by the Supreme Court, and may protect non-citizens from unjust deportation.

Legal Assistance for Prospective Immigrants

While the Supreme Court immigration ruling is a step in the right direction, successfully receiving a US visa remains a complex and time-consuming process. Anyone looking to enter the US for employment or family purposes will benefit from working with experienced immigration attorneys during their application. At Litwin & Smith, immigration law is our specialty. We are dedicated to supporting businesses and individuals seeking visas and green cards in San Francisco, northern California, and nationwide. Schedule your 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your needs and learn how we can assist you with receiving proper authorization to enter and remain in the US.

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