Supreme Court Extends Stay Preventing Texas From Enforcing Immigration Law
EAGLE PASS, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 03: An aerial view shows an immigrant group trying to cross the Texan border despite heightened security measures in Eagle Pass, Texas on February 03, 2024.
(Photo by Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court extended an administrative stay on an embattled Texas immigration law that would give the state the power to prosecute illegal immigrants amidst an unprecedented crisis at the southern border.

The legislation, called SB4, was set to take effect on Wednesday after an earlier stay from the Supreme Court delayed its implementation. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has extended the stay until March 18.

The legislation would give Texas officials the power to prosecute illegal immigrants for unlawfully crossing the border, giving judges the ability to order them to return to Mexico if they are convicted. If they refuse to return, illegal immigrants could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail. Those who re-offend could be charged with a second-degree felony and face up to 20 years in prison.

The legislation was challenged by the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ), which called the law unconstitutional.

“SB 4 impedes the federal government’s ability to enforce entry and removal provisions of federal law and interferes with its conduct of foreign relations,” the Biden DOJ argued. The Supreme Court’s consideration of the legislation comes after U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra barred Texas from implementing the law in February.

The legislation has received support from local law enforcement officials like Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe.

“This law, if and when it goes into effect, will be one more tool in our toolbox to prevent the destruction of our country,” Coe said.  Kinney County, which shares 13 miles of border with Mexico, has become a notorious route for human smugglers, with illegal immigrants frequently leading law enforcement officials on high-speed chases.


The ongoing fight over SB4 is the latest in a series of legal disputes between Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott and the Biden administration over immigration and border security. The two previously sparred over Abbott’s decision to use the Department of Public Safety and state National Guard to take control of a public park in Eagle Pass that had been a hotspot for illegal crossings.

Legal battles rage as Texas and other states along the U.S. southern border have been hit with an unprecedented surge in illegal crossings. About 9 million nationwide encounters and 1.7 million estimated gotaways have occurred since Biden took office. Under the Trump administration, there were 415,000 total reported gotaways for 2018, 2019, and 2020.

The Biden administration has faced harsh public criticism over its handling of the border, with a February poll from Pew Research finding that 80% of Americans say the government is doing a poor job handling the influx of migrants at the border.

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