Feds Challenge Texas’ Interpretation of Recent Supreme Court Decisions in SB 4 Immigration Case

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Feds Challenge Texas' Interpretation of Recent Supreme Court Decisions in SB 4 Immigration Case

Background of the Dispute

The U.S. Department of Justice has asserted that Texas’ interpretation of two pivotal Supreme Court decisions does not apply in the legal challenge against Texas’ controversial SB 4 law. This law, widely criticized as a “show me your papers” policy, allows local law enforcement to detain individuals suspected of illegal entry into the United States. The federal government’s position was detailed in a recent briefing to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Feds Say Texas’ Reliance On Justices In SB 4 Case Is Misplace: Supreme Court Rulings and SB 4

Texas has claimed that the Supreme Court’s decisions in DeVillier v. Texas and Labrador v. Poe bolster its case, arguing these rulings restrict the federal government’s use of the supremacy clause to challenge state laws. However, the DOJ has countered this claim, emphasizing that neither decision impacts the ongoing injunction that prevents the enforcement of SB 4. The DOJ highlighted that the DeVillier case, in particular, dealt with a distinct legal issue related to just compensation claims, which is markedly different from the injunctive relief sought against SB 4.

Feds Say Texas’ Reliance On Justices In SB 4 Case Is Misplace: Arguments at the Fifth Circuit

During the oral arguments on April 3, Texas argued that the federal government lacks statutory backing to challenge SB 4, suggesting that such authority must be explicitly granted by Congress. The Fifth Circuit, seeking clarity on this legal point, requested both parties to provide examples of Congress authorizing such federal lawsuits. The DOJ responded with evidence of over 350 statutes allowing federal injunctive actions, reinforcing its stance that it retains broad authority to challenge state laws that it believes infringe on federal prerogatives.

Stakeholder Positions

The Las Americas plaintiffs, consisting of nonprofit organizations and El Paso County, have supported the DOJ’s position. They argue that the equitable relief they seek is unaffected by the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, which dealt primarily with legal remedies rather than equitable ones. Their stance is that a statewide injunction is necessary to prevent the broad harms anticipated from SB 4’s implementation.

Feds Say Texas’ Reliance On Justices In SB 4 Case Is Misplace: Legal Implications and Next Steps

The Fifth Circuit’s decision will have significant implications not only for the enforcement of SB 4 but also for the broader interaction between state and federal powers in immigration enforcement. A ruling in favor of the DOJ could affirm the federal government’s ability to counter state laws that it views as conflicting with national immigration policies, while a decision favoring Texas could embolden states to enact more autonomous immigration enforcement policies.