WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday wrestled with a partisan-tinged dispute over a Biden administration policy that would prioritise the deportation of people in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk.
It was not clear after arguments that stretched past two hours and turned highly contentious at times whether the justices would allow the policy to take effect, or side with Republican-led states that have so far succeeded in blocking it.
At the centre of the case is a September 2021 directive from the Department of Homeland Security that paused deportations unless individuals had committed acts of terrorism, espionage, or “egregious threats to public safety.”
The guidance, issued after Joe Biden became president, updated a Trump-era policy that removed people from the country illegally regardless of criminal history or community ties.
On Tuesday, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer told the justices that federal law does “not create an unyielding mandate to apprehend and remove” every one of the more than 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said it would be “incredibly destabilising on the ground” for the high court to require that. Congress has not given DHS enough money to vastly increase the number of people it holds and deports, the Biden administration has said.
But Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone told the court that the administration violated federal law requiring the detention of people who are in the US illegally and who have been convicted of serious crimes.
Chief Justice John Roberts was among the conservative justices who pushed back strongly on the Biden administration’s arguments.