The United States Supreme Court has taken up a dispute over a blocked Biden administration policy that would prioritise the deportation of people who are in the country illegally and pose the greatest public safety risk.
Republican-led states sued and won a nationwide court order that is meant to limit immigration officers’ discretion in deciding whom to deport. The justices are hearing arguments in the case on Tuesday.
At the centre of the immigration legal fight is a September 2021 directive from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that paused deportations unless individuals had committed acts of terrorism, espionage or “egregious threats to public safety.”
The guidance, issued after Joe Biden became president, updated a Trump-era policy that removed people in the country illegally regardless of criminal history or community ties.
The administration said in a written high-court filing that the “decision to prioritise threats to national security, public safety, and border security was both reasonable and reasonably explained.”
That is especially since Congress has not given DHS enough money to vastly increase the number of people it holds and deports.
Texas and Louisiana, which sued over the directive, responded that the administration’s guidance violates federal law that requires the detention of people who are in the US illegally and who have been convicted of serious crimes.
The states said they would face added costs of having to detain people the federal government might allow to remain free inside the United States, despite their criminal records.
Federal appeals courts had reached conflicting decisions over DHS guidance.
The federal appeals court in Cincinnati earlier overturned a district judge’s order that put the policy on hold in a lawsuit filed by Arizona, Ohio and Montana.
But in a separate suit filed by Texas and Louisiana, a federal judge in Texas ordered a nationwide halt to the guidance and a federal appellate panel in New Orleans declined to step in.
In July, the court voted 5-4 to leave the immigration policy frozen nationwide.
Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court’s three liberals in saying they would have allowed the Biden administration to put in place the guidance.
At the same time, the court said it would hear arguments in the case in late November.