The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that President Joe Biden (right) has the authority to end a Trump-era policy restricting immigration (Pictures: AFP/REX)
In a 5-4 ruling on Thursday morning, the high court said that immigration law gives the federal government discretion to end the program officially called Migrant Protection Protocols.
The Trump-era policy sent some non-Mexican citizens who illegally entered the US back to Mexico, instead of detaining or releasing them in the US, as their immigration proceedings were in motion.
It required asylum seekers, primarily from central and south America, to be detained in the US or sent to Mexico to live in squalid camps for months or years as their claims were considered.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the immigration statue ‘plainly confers a discretionary authority to return aliens to Mexico during the pendency of their immigration proceedings’.
The use of the word ‘may’ in the law question ‘makes clear that contiguous-territory return is a tool that the (Department of Homeland Security) Secretary “has the authority, but not the duty,” to use’, Roberts wrote.
It signals a victory for the Biden administration, which has faced various setbacks and legal challenges in its efforts to reverse Trump’s hardline immigration agenda.
The Biden administration had tried to terminate the Remain in Mexico policy last June, but Trump-appointed federal district Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered the program to be restarted. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at the time agreed with the decision.
Justices Samuel Alito Jr, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented.
Alito wrote that the Department of Homeland Security must use its discretion to return migrants in cases where there is no alternative within the law.
‘Rather than avail itself of Congress’s clear statutory alternative to return inadmissible aliens to Mexico while they await proceedings in this country, DHS has concluded that it may forgo that option altogether and instead simply release into this country untold numbers of aliens who are very likely to be removed if they show up for their removal hearings,’ said Alito.
‘This practice violates the clear terms of the law, but the court looks the other way.’
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