Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked legal standing to challenge the Biden administration’s priorities on who should be deported.
In a 8-1 decision, the court found that even though the states lacked legal standing to sue in this case, “we do not suggest that federal courts may never entertain cases involving the Executive Branch’s alleged failure to make more arrests or bring more prosecutions.”
“In sum, the States have brought an extraordinarily unusual lawsuit,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote for the majority. “They want a federal court to order the Executive Branch to alter its arrest policies so as to make more arrests. Federal courts have not traditionally entertained that kind of lawsuit; indeed, the States cite no precedent for a lawsuit like this.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. was the lone dissenter.
The case, Texas v. Biden, reached the Supreme Court after Texas and Louisiana sued the Biden administration in April 2021 for changing immigration enforcement priorities. Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, had issued a memorandum instructing immigration agents to target undocumented immigrants who are convicted of felonies or pose a risk to public safety.
The case was argued before the Supreme Court in November 2022.
During the Obama administration, which issued similar guidance to immigration agents, the priority guidelines were necessary because Congress allocated only enough money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport about 400,000 undocumented immigrants a year, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Justice memo. Mayorkas’ memo said Congress still has not allocated enough money to target every undocumented immigrant in the country.
Judd E. Stone II, solicitor general with the Texas attorney general’s office, told the justices in November that under U.S. immigration law, the federal government has to deport every undocumented immigrant who has been ordered deported, and it can’t ignore that because of a lack of resources.
“The final memorandum is unlawful for multiple reasons,” mainly because it treats a section of immigration law “as discretionary,” Stone said, “although this court and every previous administration have acknowledged it’s mandatory.”
Elizabeth B. Prelogar, solicitor general with the Department of Justice, argued in November that the federal government didn’t stop enforcing immigration law but instead is using its resources efficiently.
“This is not about reducing enforcement of immigration laws. It’s about prioritizing limited resources to, say, go after Person A instead of Person B, and there’s no reason to conclude that that’s actually going to lead to less enforcement against individuals overall,” she said.
Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.