Updated Mar 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court temporarily blocks Texas law allowing state arrests of immigrants

Migrants cross the border to USA through Gate 36 and to be received by elements of the Border Patrol and the Texas National Guard for the processing of their request to migrate, captured from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on February 06, 2024. (Photo by Christian Torres/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Migrants cross the border into the U.S. from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Feb. 6. Photo: Christian Torres/Anadolu via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday temporarily put on hold a Texas law that would allow local authorities and judges to arrest and deport immigrants suspected of illegally crossing the U.S. border.

Why it matters: The move comes after civil rights groups and the Department of Justice together sued in an effort to stop the law from going into effect, arguing it is unconstitutional and could lead to racial profiling.

State of play: An appeals court had previously ruled that the law, dubbed SB 4, could take effect.

  • Monday's order issued by conservative Justice Samuel Alito halted the lower court's order and blocked the ruling until March 13 so that the high court can make a determination.
  • Alito also ordered Texas officials to respond to an application to vacate the administrative stay by March 11.

Context: Under SB 4, it's a state misdemeanor to illegally cross the border and a second-degree felony for illegal re-entry, with punishments ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison.

  • The law also allows a judge to order an undocumented person "to return to the foreign nation from which they entered."
  • Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who had sharply criticized the Biden administration over its handling of an influx of immigrants at the southern border, signed SB 4 into law on Dec. 18.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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