In what one immigration campaigner blasted as "a radical, unprecedented decision," the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from resuming a policy limiting migrant deportations.
"The anti-immigrant judicial pipeline is gushing."
In a 5-4 vote the court rejected an emergency appeal from the administration and upheld an order from a Texas judge compelling the government to deport immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, tweeted: "At stake in this case is a fundamental question; can a president choose who to target for deportation? For generations, the answer was yes. The Supreme Court repeatedly reaffirmed this point. But now that discretion is at risk of being stripped away."
Shortly after taking office, Biden, disavowing former President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, issued guidance prioritizing the deportation of people deemed to pose the biggest risk to public safety.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonya Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in saying they would have granted the administration's request. It was Jackson's first public vote since joining the court.
The high court said it would hear oral arguments in the case, United States v. Texas, in December.
Thursday's decision was a victory for Republican leaders in Texas and Louisiana who have sued the Biden administration over its guidance. Immigration campaigners, however, denounced the high court's vote.
"SCOTUS has basically just allowed a lone Trump-appointed judge in Texas the power to tell a president what immigration priorities it can and can't enforce," tweeted the advocacy group El Otro Lado. "Crazy."
Reichlin-Melnick noted that "the Supreme Court repeatedly granted the Trump administration emergency relief in situations that were far less extreme than this order."
This is a radical decision that makes clear that the Supreme Court is picking favorites, and it's not the Biden [Justice Department]. This means that for at least eight to 10 months, the secretary of homeland security has been effectively barred from instructing [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and [Customs and Border Protection] agents how to carry out their duties, unless he can convince a single judge in Texas to okay his orders.
"This case was the perfect example of a situation where emergency relief should have been granted; a radical, unprecedented decision granting nationwide relief to restrict a core function of a cabinet officer, and in direct conflict with another appeals court," Reichlin-Melnick added. "Yet SCOTUS said OK."