Supreme Court allows Biden administration to limit immigration arrests

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 30: Immigrants await their turn for green card and citizenship interviews at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Queens office on May 30, 2013 in the Long Island City neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The branch office is located in an area heavily populated by immigrants and processes thousands of Green Card and U.S. citizenship applications each year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) via CBS News.

The Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for the Biden administration to reinstate rules that instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its deportation efforts in the U.S. interior on immigrants with serious criminal convictions and those deemed to threaten national security. 

The court found that Texas and Louisiana, the two states that challenged the administration’s guidelines, lacked standing to bring the suit, known as United States v. Texas.

Supreme Court Ruling

The ruling was 8-1, with only Justice Samuel Alito dissenting. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett concurred in the judgment, with Gorsuch and Barrett contributing opinions of their own.

FILE – President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021, about the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File)

The decision in the case marks a major victory for the Biden administration and a vindication of the executive branch’s broad powers to dictate — and in this case, narrow — the enforcement of federal immigration laws without interference from lawsuits.

At the center of the dispute is a memo issued in 2021 by the Biden administration that directed ICE agents to prioritize the arrest of immigrants with serious criminal records, national security threats and migrants who recently entered the U.S. illegally. The policy generally shielded unauthorized immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for years from being arrested by ICE if they did not commit serious crimes.

Limited ICE Resources

The Biden administration has argued the memo allows ICE to concentrate its limited resources — and 6,000 deportation agents — on apprehending and deporting immigrants who pose the greatest threats to public safety, national security and border security. The policy, administration officials have argued, relies on the recognition that the government can’t deport the millions of people living in the country unlawfully.

But Republican officials in Texas and Louisiana challenged the memo in federal court, saying it restrained ICE agents from fully enforcing U.S. immigration laws. After the states convinced lower court judges to block the policy, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year.

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