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SCOTUS temporarily blocks Texas immigration law, reversing 5th Circuit ruling

By Uriel J. García and William Melhado, The Texas Tribune

SCOTUS temporarily blocks Texas immigration law, reversing 5th Circuit ruling” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted a new state law on Monday evening allowing Texas police to arrest people suspected of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally from going into effect.

The nation’s highest court stayed a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would have allowed police to enforce the law as soon as this Saturday. Last Saturday, the New Orleans-based appeals court reversed a lower court’s ruling that had previously halted the new state law.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary stay until March 13 while the court considers whether it will allow the state to enforce Senate Bill 4.

The 5th Circuit ruling on March 2 came just a day after U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Austin blocked SB 4 from going into effect, saying the law “threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice.”

Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 in December, marking Texas’ latest attempt to try to deter people from crossing the Rio Grande after several years of historic numbers of migrants arriving at the Texas-Mexico border.

SB 4 seeks to make illegally crossing the border a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a punishment of up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders could face a second-degree felony with a punishment of two to 20 years in prison.

The law also requires state judges to order migrants returned to Mexico if they are convicted; local law enforcement would be responsible for transporting migrants to the border. A judge could drop the charges if a migrant agrees to return to Mexico voluntarily.

In December, ​​the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project sued Texas on behalf of El Paso County and two immigrant rights organizations — El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and Austin-based American Gateways — over the new state law. The following month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed its lawsuit against Texas. The lawsuits have since been combined.

The court proceedings come during a presidential election year when immigration has been top of mind for many voters. Former President Donald Trump has bashed President Joe Biden for his immigration policies, saying he has incentivized illegal immigration. Biden has created some narrow paths for migrants to enter the U.S. legally with policies that seek to deter migrants from entering the country illegally.

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