WASHINGTON – The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to allow it to put in place guidance that prioritizes deportation of people in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk.
The emergency request to the court follows conflicting decisions by federal appeals courts in recent days over a September directive from the Homeland Security Department that paused deportation unless individuals had committed acts of terrorism, espionage or “egregious threats to public safety.”
The federal appeals court in Cincinnati overturned a district judge's order that put the policy on hold in a lawsuit filed by Arizona, Ohio and Montana.
But in a separate suit filed by Texas and Louisiana, a federal judge in Texas ordered a nationwide halt to the guidance and a federal appellate panel in New Orleans declined to step in.
The administration turned to the Supreme Court in the latter case, asking that the policy be allowed to be put in place nationwide, or at the very least, everywhere outside Texas and Louisiana.
The judge's order “is disrupting DHS’s efforts to focus its limited resources on the noncitizens who pose the gravest threat to national security, public safety, and the integrity of our Nation’s borders,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the Supreme Court filing.
The guidance, issued after Joe Biden became president, updated a Trump-era policy that removed people in the country illegally regardless of criminal history or community ties.
Even while disagreeing on many aspects of the immigration issue, the two administrations did find common ground in one respect, calling for the court to limit the power of “single district judges to dictate national policy.”
Prelogar, following her predecessors in the Trump administration, bemoaned an explosion of lawsuits filed by states of one party against a president of the other party. Too many of those suits, she wrote, resulted in orders with nationwide effect. Judges typically decide cases in ways that only affect the parties before them.
The states have until Wednesday to respond, and an order from the Supreme Court is not expected before late next week.
The Biden administration request comes one day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order authorizing state forces to apprehend migrants and return them to the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing the boundaries of their enforcement powers and the Republican’s escalating efforts to curb the rising number of crossings.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked Friday about the order, said “Immigration enforcement is a federal authority and states should not be ... meddling in it. That is just, especially Texas Gov. Abbott, who has a track record of causing chaos and confusion at the border.”
It remained unclear Friday how Abbott’s order would be carried out on the ground or whether any apprehensions or transports had already taken place. Ericka Miller, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the state police agency could not discuss operational specifics.
Customs and Border Protection commissioner Chris Magnus, speaking at a news conference in Washington, said his agency has a shared interest with the Texas DPS and other agencies "in maintaining a safe, orderly, humane immigration process."
"We stand ready to work with Texas to achieve these goals but the challenge is when any state such as Texas takes unilateral action that just makes it harder for us to do this,” he said.