US appeals court blocks enforcement of Texas illegal entry law hours after Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect News
Bobak Ha'Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
US appeals court blocks enforcement of Texas illegal entry law hours after Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday blocked enforcement of Texas’s law criminalizing illegal entry into the state from other countries, hours after a divided US Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect. The appeals court will hear oral arguments regarding whether a lower court’s injunction against the law should stay in place Wednesday at 10:00 am Central Time.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court dissolved an administrative stay on US District Judge David Alan Ezra’s preliminary injunction against the law. The court initially imposed the stay on March 2nd. It became an object of Supreme Court controversy earlier Tuesday as justices disagreed on whether the administrative stay should be vacated.

Wednesday’s arguments will concern an application for a “stay pending appeal,” which, if approved, would stay the preliminary injunction until the Fifth Circuit decides whether to vacate it.

Judge Andrew S. Oldham was the only member of the three-judge panel to dissent from the appeals court’s decision. He wrote:

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy that alters the status quo. A stay preserves the status quo while an appellate court reviews the lawfulness of that alteration. Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States restored an administrative stay so our panel could review the State’s request for emergency relief under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8. I would leave that stay in place pending tomorrow’s oral argument on the question.

Tuesday’s procedural back-and-forth concerns a Texas effort to enforce US immigration law, which is normally a federal matter. The state’s new law, SB 4, would make it a misdemeanor offense for foreign nationals to enter the state from abroad unless arriving at a “lawful port of entry,” and would give magistrates the power to order persons found violating the law to return abroad in lieu of prosecution.

However, a Mexican official said that the country would not accept repatriations from Texas under the legislation.

The law has sparked controversy as opponents argue that it violates the US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and US Supreme Court precedent, which place immigration matters under federal jurisdiction. Rights organizations, such as the Texas ACLU, have also claimed the law will “place[] … communities and those traveling in Texas at higher risk of racial profiling and overpolicing.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended the legislation by saying that it is necessary for the state’s “right to defend itself” against an irregular migrant “invasion” at the southern border.