Supreme Court extends block on controversial Texas immigration law

Supreme Court paused implementation of SB4, a controversial immigration bill that would allow Texas law enforcement to arrest and charge those entering the US illegally

Ariana Baio
Monday 18 March 2024 22:30 GMT
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Just moments after the deadline passed for the Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ controversial immigration bill SB4, Justice Samuel Alito issued an order temporarily pausing the bill from taking effect, this time indefinitely.

The law, which would allow Texas law enforcement officials to arrest people they suspect of entering the United States illegally, will remain in limbo until the Supreme Court issues a formal ruling. They did not indicate when that could be.

SB4 would have made it a crime for individuals to cross the US–Mexico border and give law enforcement the authority to charge them with a Class B misdemeanour which carries a maximum sentencing of six months in jail. Second offenders could face second-degree felony charges and up to 20 years in prison.

It is part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott‘s push to enact aggressive legislation that would stop migrants from crossing the border and impose penalties for doing so.

Critics of the bill have called it an “extreme” piece of anti-immigration legislation.

The bill, which Mr Abbott signed in December, was set to go into effect earlier this month, but the Supreme Court temporarily blocked it after the Justice Department and immigration advocacy groups petitioned federal courts to intervene.

Last week, Justice Alito extended that stay another week. Now, he has extended it indefinitely.

A Texas National Guard agent near a barbed wire fence installed to prevent the entry of migrants across the Rio Bravo/Grande from Ciudad Juarez (AFP via Getty Images)

In their fight to let SB4 continue, Texas argued that the state was authorised to defend itself under Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution which allows states to engage in war on their own if they are “actually invaded.”

The Justice Department said the bill conflicts with federal law – typically the legislation responsible for immigration enforcement.

In February, a federal judge blocked the law, saying he was unconvinced the state was in a war.

The temporary stay issued by the Supreme Court on Monday will give the justices time to ruminate over the legality of SB4 and whether it can go into effect.

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