Recently, the Supreme Court made a decision with an 8-1 majority to resurrect a deportation policy that was put in place by the Biden administration. The policy aims to prioritize the removal of individuals who are in the country illegally and pose a threat to public safety. The Court stated that Texas and Louisiana did not have the legal standing to challenge this policy, claiming that it was too lenient.
Furthermore, the Court ruled against a First Amendment argument in a different immigration case. The case involved a federal law that makes it a crime to encourage noncitizens to enter the United States unlawfully.
The deportation case involved a clash between the Biden administration and Republican-led states advocating stricter immigration policies. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the Court, highlighted that the states sought to compel the Executive Branch through a federal court to alter its arrest policies by increasing the number of arrests. Kavanaugh pointed out that federal courts did not traditionally entertain such lawsuits, as the states provided no precedent for this type of legal challenge. Kavanaugh emphasized that the allocation of resources and the establishment of law enforcement priorities are within the domain of the executive branch, to be resolved through political branches and elections rather than through the courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, joined the majority opinion. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett concurred with the outcome in separate opinions. Justice Samuel Alito dissented, expressing concern that the majority decision further rendered states grappling with significant illegal immigration even more powerless.
The case revolved around a policy change initiated by the Biden administration in September 2021, which set narrower targets for immigration enforcement. Rather than instructing deportation officers to arrest any individual in the country illegally, the new guidelines emphasize the removal of those who pose a threat to public and national security. The administration aimed to allocate its resources effectively and focus on individuals who posed significant risks rather than expending efforts on those who had been in the United States for years and had made positive contributions to their communities.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the guidelines enabled the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry out its law enforcement mission efficiently, utilizing the authorities and resources provided by Congress.
The Republican attorneys general of Texas and Louisiana successfully persuaded a lower court to block the policy nationwide. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, an appointee of former President Trump, ruled that the Biden administration had exceeded the boundaries of nonenforcement discretion, contradicting immigration mandates established by Congress. Despite the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to delay Tipton’s judgment, the recent ruling by the Supreme Court has overturned the judge’s decision.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, stating that the suit was filed due to Biden’s failure to protect the homeland by disregarding Congress and releasing violent criminal aliens into communities, emphasized that the state would continue pursuing all available legal avenues to challenge the administration’s immigration policies. The Biden administration’s approach has led to a decrease in the number of arrests and deportations of immigrants residing in the country illegally compared to the Trump and Obama administrations. However, this decline is partially attributed to reduced jail capacity enforced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a second immigration-related decision, the Supreme Court, with a 7-2 majority, rejected arguments asserting that a federal prohibition on encouraging noncitizens to enter and remain in the U.S. illegally violated protected speech under the First Amendment. The case pertained to Helaman Hansen, the accused, who got 20 years of imprisonment for devising a scheme that falsely guaranteed U.S. citizenship to immigrants through adoption by American adults. While the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that the federal law’s language criminalized constitutionally protected speech, the Supreme Court disagreed.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the majority, explained that the term “encourage” should be narrowly construed as solicitation or facilitation of a crime in legal terms. Barrett added that laws should only be struck down for overbreadth in rare cases, as doing so may nullify convictions for illegal conduct. Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, expressing concerns that the existence of the law could deter free speech due to the fear of law enforcement targeting individuals.