WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday struggled over a bid by President Joe Biden’s administration to implement guidelines – challenged by two conservative-leaning states – shifting immigration enforcement toward countering public safety threats.
The justices heard about two hours of arguments in the administration’s request to overturn a judge’s ruling in favor of Texas and Louisiana that halted U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines narrowing the scope of those who can be targeted by immigration agents for arrest and deportation.
The court’s three liberal members generally signaled support for the administration while the six conservatives appeared more divided, with Justice Samuel Alito embracing the arguments made by the states while others posed tough questions to both sides.
Some of the questions involved whether the guidelines violated immigration law, whether U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton had the power to void the guidelines as he did in June and whether Texas and Louisiana had suffered any significant harm that gave them legal standing to sue.
The guidelines, part of Biden’s recalibration of U.S. immigration policy after the hardline approach taken by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, prioritized apprehending and deporting non-U.S. citizens who pose a threat to national security, public safety or border security.
The two states, whose Republican attorneys general filed the suit, argued that the guidelines ran counter to provisions in federal immigration law that make it mandatory to detain non-U.S. citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes or have final orders of removal. Biden’s administration disagreed.