Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee to a federal court in Texas, has spent just over two years on the bench. In those two years, he has repeatedly handed down decisions blocking the Biden administration's immigration policies that were rooted in highly dubious legal arguments.
And because federal trial court procedures in Texas frequently permit litigants to choose which judge will hear their case, Texas’s Republican attorney general often chooses Tipton to hear challenges to Biden administration policies. At least when it comes to immigration, Tipton has acted as a reliable partisan.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had to confront this set of circumstances head-on, reported Vox.
The Court heard an appeal of Tipton’s decision in a case known as United States v. Texas. Tipton’s order in the case, which he handed down in July, effectively stripped Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas of his statutory authority to set enforcement priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that enforces immigration laws within US borders.
Tipton’s decision invalidated a memo Mayorkas issued in September 2021, which instructed ICE to prioritize undocumented immigrants who “pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America’s well-being” when making arrests or otherwise enforcing immigration law.
Based on the justices’ comments at Tuesday’s argument, it is likely that a majority of the Court will ultimately vote to reverse Tipton — potentially by a lopsided margin. But it is unlikely that they will do much to prevent judges like Tipton from tossing a wrench into the Biden administration’s gears in the future.
Tipton claimed that Mayorkas’s enforcement priorities are invalid because federal law requires the government to detain a fairly large number of undocumented immigrants. But, as Chief Justice John Roberts said at one point in the argument, “it is impossible for the executive to do” what Tipton ordered it to do. The government simply doesn’t have the resources and manpower to arrest every single immigrant who falls within Tipton’s order.
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