IMMIGRATIONSupreme Court Rejects Texas Effort to Force Biden Administration to Change Deportation Policy

By Uriel J. Garcia

Published 23 June 2023

Texas and Louisiana sued after the Biden administration told immigration agents to focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who are convicted of felonies or pose a risk to public safety. The Supreme Court said states didn’t have any standing to sue.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that Texas and Louisiana lacked legal standing to challenge the Biden administration’s priorities on who should be deported.

In an 8-1 decision, the court said that even though the states lacked legal standing to sue in this case, “we do not suggest that federal courts may never entertain cases involving the Executive Branch’s alleged failure to make more arrests or bring more prosecutions.”

“In sum, the States have brought an extraordinarily unusual lawsuit,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote for the majority. “They want a federal court to order the Executive Branch to alter its arrest policies so as to make more arrests. Federal courts have not traditionally entertained that kind of lawsuit; indeed, the States cite no precedent for a lawsuit like this.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter.

The case, Texas v. Biden, reached the Supreme Court after Texas and Louisiana sued the Biden administration in April 2021 for changing immigration enforcement priorities. Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, had issued a memorandum instructing immigration agents to target undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or pose a risk to public safety.

The states argued that Mayorkas’ memo was illegal, and U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, an appointee of former President Donald Trump based in Corpus Christi, ruled in the states’ favor last year. The Biden administration appealed the decision, which eventually reached the high court.

The case was argued before the Supreme Court in November 2022.

During the Obama administration, which issued similar guidance to immigration agents, the priority guidelines were necessary because Congress allocated only enough money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport about 400,000 undocumented immigrants a year, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Justice memo. Mayorkas’ memo said Congress still has not allocated enough money to target every undocumented immigrant in the country.

Judd E. Stone II, solicitor general with the Texas attorney general’s office, told the justices in November that under U.S. immigration law, the federal government has to deport every undocumented immigrant who has been ordered deported, and it can’t ignore that because of a lack of resources.

“The final memorandum is unlawful for multiple reasons,” mainly because it treats a section of immigration law “as discretionary,” Stone said, “although this court and every previous administration have acknowledged it’s mandatory.”