The United States Supreme Court delivered a significant decision in the case of United States v. Texas, which challenged the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement priorities. In this blog post, we will summarize the Supreme Court’s decision and discuss its implications for individuals with pending immigration court cases.
Supreme court's decision
In September of 2021, Department of Homeland Security’s(“DHS”) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memorandum outlining the DHS’ immigration enforcement priorities, including prosecutorial discretion for people in removal proceedings. Texas and Louisiana sued the Biden administration over the Mayorkas memo, arguing that it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) and Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).
On June 23, 2023, Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the Court, ruled that the states lacked standing to bring the suit because they failed to demonstrate a legally recognizable interest or injury. The Court stated that the lawsuit was highly unusual as it sought to compel the Executive Branch to change its arrest policies. The Court provided several reasons why challenging the Executive Branch’s discretion to arrest and prosecute deviated from established precedents and historical practice. It emphasized that the Executive Branch has the authority to make arrests and prosecutions under Article II and that prosecutorial discretion extends to the immigration context. The Court also noted that there were no meaningful standards for the judicial branch to assess prosecutorial discretion policies. The decision was limited to the question of whether a federal court could order the Executive Branch to take enforcement actions against violators of federal law.
While eight Justices concurred in the judgment, only five joined Kavanaugh’s opinion in full. Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Thomas and Barrett, wrote a concurring opinion arguing that the problem lay in redressability and that relief sought by the states was barred by a specific provision of the law. Justice Barrett, joined by Justice Gorsuch, wrote a separate concurring opinion criticizing the majority’s interpretation of precedent. Justice Alito dissented, asserting that Texas had met the
requirements for standing.
The Court explicitly noted that its decision did not address selective-prosecution cases under the Equal Protection Clause, cases where Congress indicated judicial review of enforcement discretion would be appropriate, situations where the Executive Branch abandoned its statutory responsibilities, challenges involving enforcement priorities and provision of legal benefits, and the continued detention of noncitizens who had been arrested.
Implications of united states v. texas on immigration court cases
The immediate implementation of the Court’s decision is difficult to predict. Secretary Mayorkas released a statement after the decision expressing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) eagerness to reinstate their guidelines for prosecutorial discretion. It is projected that it will take approximately one month for the guidelines to be reinstated. As per the Supreme Court’s regulations, the clerk of the Court will deliver a copy of the opinion to the Fifth Circuit 32 days after the Court’s judgment is entered. Once the Fifth Circuit receives the copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion, it will issue its mandate in accordance with the Court’s decision. It is expected that this will occur shortly after the Fifth Circuit’s receipt of the opinion, resulting in the formal reversal of the district court’s final judgment that vacated the Mayorkas Memo.
Prosecutorial discretion grants DHS the power to determine when and to what extent the law will be enforced against an individual. In essence, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in immigration court implies that the case will be given lower priority by DHS for deportation. Upon receiving prosecutorial discretion, DHS typically seeks to administratively close or dismiss a case without prejudice.
Immigration lawyers should persist in submitting personalized requests for prosecutorial discretion on behalf of their clients to DHS when appropriate based on the facts of the case. These requests should emphasize positive factors while providing context for any negative aspects of the case. Until the DHS guidelines are reinstated, immigration lawyers can reference the Mayorkas Memo and advocate for discretion based on the factors outlined in the guidelines. However, it is important to note DHS’s broad discretionary authority in individual cases rather than solely relying on the Memo itself.
Although the Court’s opinion significantly limits the ability of Texas and Louisiana to pursue their lawsuit against the enforcement priorities outlined in the Mayorkas Memo, the Court’s emphasis on the narrow scope of its decision suggests that conservative-leaning states may persist in obstructing immigration policies proposed by the Biden administration
Lalama Immigration Law has the knowledge and experience to provide you with the guidance and support you need with your immigration case. Whether you are seeking a green card, citizenship, or another form of immigration status, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angel Lalama is an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles who established Lalama Immigration Law to serve the immigrant community throughout the United States and abroad with high-quality legal representation with a customer service-focused approach.