early and often

Supreme Court Says Texas Can’t Boss Biden Around on Deportation Policy

Impeached and suspended Texas AG Ken Paxton loses again. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

The last month has been tough for Ken Paxton. On May 27, the fiery MAGA politician was impeached by the Texas House on corruption charges and suspended from his duties as attorney general pending a September trial by the state senate. And now the U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed one of Paxton’s signature lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s immigration policies on grounds that states don’t have legal standing to boss the federal government around on its enforcement priorities.

In a 8-1 decision with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion, the Court was clear and definitive in defending the administration’s prosecutorial discretion against a challenge from the likes of Paxton:

The States essentially want the Federal Judiciary to order the Executive Branch to alter its arrest policy so as to make more arrests. But this Court has long held “that a citizen lacks standing to contest the policies of the prosecuting authority when he himself is neither prosecuted nor threatened with prosecution.”

In an agitated dissent, Justice Samuel Alito accuses the Biden administration of advancing, and the Court majority of abetting, a “grossly inflated” notion of executive power and suggests the Texas AG and his Louisiana counterpart were simply trying to vindicate Congress’s exclusive right to control federal immigration enforcement priorities. In real life, it’s pretty clear Paxton is just interested in attacking the Biden administration on any and every ground related to immigration on the southern border. But this particular challenge and those like it are, for the moment, dead.

The decision was a bit of a surprise since a 5-4 majority of the Court (including Kavanaugh) rejected an opportunity last summer to set aside a lower court ruling (from one of Texas’s famous Trump-appointed district-court judges) suspending the administration’s enforcement policies. After hearing the case on the merits, however, four justices changed their stance, thus reviving the Biden policies, as described by NBC News:

Announced in September 2021, President Joe Biden’s plan was a shift away from the hard-line enforcement approach Donald Trump took as president. The Biden administration argued that with an estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the government has to prioritize certain cases because it does not have the resources to detain and deport all of them.

So the federal government will not try to pursue every immigrant with a criminal history at the expense of the overall enforcement scheme. And you can expect Republicans to renew loud claims that Biden wants discretion to pick and choose cases to prosecute because he’s not interested in enforcing the laws at all. Those claims will not, however, be heard in federal court.

As CNN observes, the decision means one less headache for the administration:

The ruling is a major victory for President Joe Biden and the White House, who have consistently argued the need to prioritize who they detain and deport given limited resources. By ruling against the states, the court tightened the rules concerning when states may challenge federal policies with which they disagree.

And Ken Paxton has one less argument for why the Texas legislature should acquit him on impeachment charges so he can continue to smite Democrats with constant lawsuits.

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Supreme Court: Texas Can’t Boss Biden Around on Deportation