Alito extended an order barring the detention of Texas immigrants under the SB4 immigration law

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday barred Texas officials from detaining and jailing immigrants suspected of crossing the U.S. southern border without permission under a new law. A state immigration law called SB4 The Biden administration has called it unconstitutional.

Minutes after a self-imposed deadline passed, Alito issued an executive order continuing to suspend enforcement of the controversial Texas law, one of Gov. Greg Abbott's signature immigration policies.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is considering the legality of the measure, and the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to stay the law as the court challenge ends. The full court has yet to act on that request.

Passed by the Texas Legislature last year, SB4 criminalizes unauthorized immigration at the state level, making entering the U.S. outside a port of entry — already a federal crime — a state crime. It also creates charges of illegal re-entry at the state level.

A federal judge last month, at the request of the Biden administration SB4 blocked, finding the state action inconsistent with federal immigration laws. That ruling was stayed by the 5th Circuit until Alito stayed the appeals court's order on administrative grounds. Alito's administrative stay remains in place while the court considers the Justice Department's request for emergency relief.

SB4 empowers Texas law enforcement officials, at the state and local levels, to stop, detain, and prosecute immigrants for illegal entry and re-entry offenses. It allows Texas judges to order migrants returned to Mexico, effectively creating a de facto state deportation system as an alternative to prosecuting them.

The Justice Department has said SB4 conflicts with federal law and the Constitution, noting that immigration enforcement, including arrests and deportations, has long been a federal responsibility. It also argued that the move would harm relations with the Mexican government, which denounced SB4 as “anti-immigrant” and vowed to turn back immigrants returned by the state of Texas.

Abbott, who has positioned himself as a leading state critic of President Biden's border policies, argued that the federal government is not doing enough to stop illegal immigration and portrayed SB4 as a necessary measure to discourage immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande.

Over the past three years, Texas has added razor wire and buoys to border areas, funneling tens of thousands of immigrants to key, Democratic-led cities to challenge the federal government's authority over immigration policy. Crossing immigrants and filing multiple lawsuits against federal immigration programs.

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