Biden’s Immigration Policies Face Fresh Judicial Setbacks

The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to block a ruling that reinstated a policy forcing some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while U.S. officials consider their cases.

By Eileen Sullivan

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to halt a judge’s order to restart a Trump-era program that made migrants crossing the southern border to seek asylum wait out their cases in Mexico, often in life-threatening situations.

The move came in response to one of two court rulings this week that posed setbacks to President Biden’s efforts to reverse the hard-line immigration policies of his predecessor.

On Thursday, a federal appeals panel in Texas denied the Biden administration’s attempt to stop a court order mandating the reinstatement of the contentious Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy, which was put in place during the Trump administration. The order was to go into effect on Saturday.

And in a separate case, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s short-term strategy to limit the arrests of undocumented immigrants by prioritizing those who posed the greatest threats to national security and public safety. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that the agency was reviewing the 160-page ruling from Judge Drew B. Tipton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and lawyers were weighing next steps.

Taken together, the court actions threaten two of the Biden administration’s earliest efforts to reshape the nation’s immigration system. Another blow came in July, when a federal judge ruled that an Obama-era program that has protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from deportation was unlawful.

The judges’ decisions, and the administration’s appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, underscored the role of the courts as the primary venue for shaping polarizing immigration policies, one legal challenge at a time — a strategy that immigration advocates honed during the Trump administration.

“Those who are opposed to the Biden administration’s immigration agenda are taking every and any opportunity to take policy questions and have them answered in favorable courts,” Tom K. Wong, the director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego, said.

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