By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed into force a Republican-backed Texas law that allows state law enforcement agencies to arrest people suspected of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and thus rejected a request from the President Joe Biden‘s administration.

The court has a 6-3 conservative majority, and its three liberal justices dissented Tuesday. The government had asked the justices to freeze a court order allowing the Texas law to take effect while the challenge to the law is heard in lower courts.

The law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law because it interferes with the U.S. government’s authority to regulate immigration, the government argued.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Last December, the country signed the law known as SB 4, which allows state law enforcement agencies to arrest people suspected of entering the United States illegally and gives local officials powers long handed to the U.S -Government were delegated.

Abbott said the law was necessary because Biden had failed to enforce federal laws criminalizing illegal entry or re-entry, stating at a Dec. 18 news conference that “Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself.”

Justice Sonia SotomayorIn a dissent joined by fellow liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, he said the Supreme Court’s decision would lead to “further chaos and a crisis in immigration enforcement.” liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote a separate dissent.

The Democratic president’s handling of the record number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally during his time in office has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans. Abbott and other Republicans said Biden should have maintained the former president’s restrictive policies Donald Trumpher party’s candidate challenging Biden in the US elections on November 5th.

STATE CRIME

Texas law made illegal entry or re-entry into Texas a state crime, with penalties ranging from 180 days to 20 years in prison. That would require Texas judges to order migrants to return to Mexico, with penalties of up to 20 years for those who refuse to comply.

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett filed an opinion concurring with Tuesday’s decision, saying the justices would be asked to lift a lower appeals court’s “administrative stay” over a court decision blocking the law – a measure that should only be short-lived.

“To my knowledge, this court has never reviewed an appeals court’s decision to impose – or not to impose – an administrative stay. “I would not interfere in the business,” wrote Barrett, who was joined by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Justice Department sued in January to block the measure, which was originally scheduled to take effect March 5. Lawyers for the Biden administration argued that it violated federal law and constitutional provisions that give the U.S. government the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce. and contradicts a 2012 Supreme Court precedent.

Texas-based U.S. District Secretary David Ezra sided with the administration on Feb. 29 and agreed to temporarily block Texas officials from enforcing the law, saying it threatens “the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice.”

But the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused Ezra’s ruling with an order that would have allowed the Texas law to take effect March 10, prompting the government to file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court.

Justice Samuel Alito, who has jurisdiction over certain emergency matters involving cases from a group of states including Texas, on March 4 halted the 5th Circuit’s ruling — and therefore the law — from taking effect, giving the Supreme Court more time given to examine the matter.

Texas has taken a number of measures to deter illegal border crossings as part of its Operation Lone Star, including deploying National Guard troops to the border, blocking migrants with drag wire and installing a floating barrier over a section of the Rio Grande.

Republicans in February failed to pass a bipartisan Senate deal that would have increased border security and tightened immigration laws after Trump pushed members of his party to reject it. Biden said the blame for the bill’s failure lay with Republican lawmakers who caved to political pressure from Trump, who “thinks it’s bad for him politically.”

An analysis of exit polls conducted by Edison Research following the primary election in early March showed that many voters are concerned about the situation at the border. Many called it their top voting issue. Reuters/Ipsos polls showed Biden’s public approval rating at 37% as of February 28.

(Reporting by John Kruzel; Editing by Will Dunham)

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