Texas Deportation Law Blocked Again in Volley of Court Rulings

(Bloomberg) -- A federal appeals court has again blocked enforcement of a Texas law that would allow the state to arrest and deport people who enter the country illegally.

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A three-judge panel acted late Tuesday, after the Supreme Court returned the matter to the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals with instructions to quickly resolve open questions in the case.

The back-and-forth court orders and limited communication from state officials in Texas has led to confusion at the border. In the few hours that the law was in effect, it was unclear how the state planed to enforce it. The measure has drawn sharp rebukes from immigrant rights groups and some Mexican officials.

After the Supreme Court refused the Biden administration’s request to intervene, the appeals court scheduled an impromptu hearing for Wednesday morning. Later, without explanation, the panel lifted the temporary pause the court had placed on a trial judge’s injunction blocking enforcement of the measure.

The Biden administration has been fighting to overturn the law, arguing that it would be an unprecedented intrusion on federal power to set immigration policy. The statute, known as SB4, would make it a state crime to illegally enter or reenter the US through Texas. The measure would let state judges order some undocumented immigrants to leave the country, tasking Texas law-enforcement officers with ensuring compliance.

Texas is asserting broad new authority to tackle illegal immigration, making the novel argument that the US Constitution authorizes the state to defend itself against the influx of people crossing the border. Texas points to a constitutional provision that lets states engage in war and take other actions when they are “actually invaded.”

As is customary with emergency orders, the Supreme Court as a whole gave no explanation for its split decision earlier Tuesday turning down a request from the Biden administration to keep the law on hold.

But Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh said in a concurring opinion that Supreme Court intervention would have been premature given that the SB4 dispute was still before the 5th Circuit.

Before the appeals court blocked the law, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, the Mexican undersecretary of foreign affairs for North America, said in a social media post that Mexico “rejects” the Supreme Court’s decision and “will not accept repatriations from the state of Texas.”

The Supreme Court case is United States v. Texas, 23A814.

--With assistance from Greg Stohr.

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