In a blow to Biden, Supreme Court blocks rollback of Trump-era deportation policies
Ruling comes as 2022 will likely be a record-breaking year for arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt yet another blow to the Biden administration’s immigration policy, this time preventing the Department of Homeland Security from reverting back to an Obama-era approach to deportation.
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from implementing a policy that prioritizes deporting undocumented immigrants who pose a public safety risk.
Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett and liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson opposed the ruling in Jackson’s first public vote since joining the court.
What it means for U.S. immigration policy: In September 2021, DHS directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus deportation resources on “national security, public safety and border security.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the time said that simply being undocumented in the country “should not alone be the basis” for deportation, according to The Washington Post, signaling a shift away from the Trump-era approach to enforcement, when immigrants often faced arrest and expulsion regardless of whether they had committed a crime.
Texas and Louisiana then sued to block the guidelines, arguing the approach incentivized undocumented immigration and that the policies strained state’s resources by allowing migrants with criminal records to go free while their cases move through the system.
In response, the Biden administration said DHS should prioritize who is arrested and deported, rather than cast a wide net over the more than 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.
Ruling comes amid record-high arrests along the U.S. border: Over 207,000 migrants were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in June, down from the record-breaking 239,416 arrests in May, but still bringing overall arrests up to 1.74 million this year, according to Customs and Border Protection data.
Last year saw the most arrests ever along the U.S.-Mexico border at 1.9 million, a figure that will likely be broken this year.
Under Trump, officers deported between 280,000 to 360,000 people each year, according to DHS data, which is high when looking at the last two decades of removals yet still far below Obama-era numbers, when over 400,000 people were deported annually between 2012 to 2014.
With the new Biden policy, officers were still given broad discretion on who poses a threat to public safety and national security. Experts point out that not much is likely to change with enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border after Thursday’s ruling, as officers cannot detain every undocumented person that comes across illegally.
Another blow for Biden: The ruling marks another setback in Biden’s attempt to scale back Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
The Supreme Court did allow the administration to end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. But that’s a rare win considering Biden’s track record this year on immigration-related cases.
A number of GOP-led states have sued the administration over its approach to immigration, sinking a handful of items, including:
- An attempt to scale back Title 42, a public health policy that allowed officers to turn away asylum-seekers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- A 100-day freeze on deportations.
- A new limit on the number of immigrants ICE can arrest.
- Closing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for undocumented children brought to the U.S., called “Dreamers.”
Lawsuits challenging attempts to stop border wall construction and speed up asylum processes along the southern border are also pending.
What’s next: The court did not give reasons for the opinions because the case was an emergency application.
However, justices will take up an appeal and hear arguments in the case in late November, according to The Associated Press.