WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court won't allow the Biden administration to implement a policy that prioritizes deportation of people in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk.
The court's order Thursday leaves the policy frozen nationwide for now. The vote was 5-4 with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson in saying they would have allowed the Biden administration to put in place the guidance.
The court also announced it would hear arguments in the case, saying they would be in late November.
The order is the first public vote by Jackson since she joined the court June 30 following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.
The justices were acting on the administration's emergency request to the court following conflicting decisions by federal appeals courts 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 earlier this month 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 judge’s order amounted to a “nationwide, judicially imposed overhaul of the Executive Branch’s enforcement priorities,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a court filing. Prelogar is the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.
In their Supreme Court filing, Texas and Louisiana argued that the administration’s guidance violates federal law that requires the detention of people who are in the U.S. illegally and who have been convicted of serious crimes. The states said they would face added costs of having to detain people the federal government might allow to remain free inside the United States, despite their criminal records.
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.
In a statement Friday, the Department of Homeland Security said that while it awaits a final ruling by the Supreme Court, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers "will make enforcement decisions on a case-by-case basis in a professional and responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement officials and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland.”