US Supreme Court Lets Texas Enforce ‘Unconstitutional and Extreme’ Border Law

“Allowing this law to be implemented as the case makes its way through the legal process needlessly puts people’s lives at risk,” said one campaigner. “We remain committed to the fight to permanently overturn S.B. 4.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 3-19-2024 by Common Dreams

Migrants who crossed the border illegally, surrender near El Paso, TX U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Mani Albrecht

Rights advocates on Tuesday blasted the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court for allowing Texas to enforce Senate Bill 4, a contested law empowering local and state authorities to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

“Today’s decision is disappointing and threatens the integrity of our nation’s immigration laws and bedrock principles of due process,” said Anand Balakrishnan, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “But it is only preliminary and turned on the specific posture of the case. We’ll continue to fight against S.B. 4 until it is struck down once and for all.”

After Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill in December, the national and state ACLU joined Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in filing a lawsuit on behalf of American Gateways, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and El Paso County. The U.S. Department of Justice has also argued that “it is flatly inconsistent with federal law in all its applications, and it is therefore preempted on its face.”

U.S. District Judge David Ezra last month issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect while it is challenged on constitutional grounds. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay, which the justices left in place on Tuesday.

In a concurring opinion that Law Dork‘s Chris Geidner called “embarrassingly absurd,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett—joined by fellow right-winger Brett Kavanaugh—highlighted that this was just a stay decision and they weren’t yet weighing in on the merits.

The high court’s three liberal members—Justices Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Sonia Sotomayor rejected—dissented. Kagan briefly explained why she would not have allowed S.B. 4 to take effect while Sotomayor, joined by Jackon, penned a lengthier dissent warning that the majority decision “invites further chaos and crisis in immigration enforcement.”

Those behind the ongoing legal battle against S.B. 4 issued similar warnings on Tuesday. Adriana Piñon, legal director at the ACLU of Texas, declared that “the implementation of this unconstitutional and extreme anti-immigrant law will likely be disastrous for both Texans and our legal system.”

Tami Goodlette, director of TCRP’s Beyond Borders Program, said that “allowing this law to be implemented as the case makes its way through the legal process needlessly puts people’s lives at risk. Everyone, no matter if you have called Texas home for decades or just got here yesterday, deserves to feel safe and have the basic right of due process.”

“We remain committed to the fight to permanently overturn S.B. 4 to show the nation that no state has the power to overtake federal immigration authority,” she pledged.

The law’s other challengers also expressed their disappointment and stressed that they remain determined to defeat S.B. 4.

“While today’s Supreme Court decision is another setback for immigrants and refugees, we will continue to advocate for civil rights and dignity for people fleeing persecution,” said American Gateways co-executive director Rebecca Lightsey. “We all recognize that our current immigration system is broken. It’s past time to take a look at realistic solutions that will help not only those coming and seeking protection, but also the communities that are receiving them.”

Jennifer Babaie, director of advocacy and legal services Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, was also undeterred, saying that “make no mistake, this decision does not change our commitment to this fight.”

“Everyone, regardless of race or immigration status, has the freedom to move and the freedom to thrive,” Babaie added. “We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure this anti-immigrant and unconstitutional law is struck down for good, and Texans are protected from its inherent discrimination.”

Editor’s note: late Tuesday night the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals put S.B. 4 back on hold

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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