Court upholds block on U.S. immigration enforcement priorities

Police respond to bomb threat in Washington
REUTERS/Gabrielle Crockett
  • Agency can't implement guidance blocked by judge pending appeal
  • Memo narrowed enforcement focus to people convicted of certain crimes
  • Different court reversed separate ruling that blocked guidance

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court has rejected the Biden administration's request to stay a judge's ruling that blocked immigration authorities from implementing guidance focusing enforcement efforts on individuals convicted of certain serious crimes.

A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Wednesday said Texas and Louisiana are likely to prevail on claims that a September memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is unlawful because it shirks the agency's legal obligation to arrest and detain immigrants convicted of a broader range of offenses.

The court denied the agency's request for a stay pending its appeal of a June ruling by a federal judge in Texas that blocked DHS from enforcing the memo while the states' lawsuit plays out.

The order came one day after a 6th Circuit panel threw out a separate injunction by an Ohio federal judge that blocked the guidance pending the outcome of a separate lawsuit by other Republican-led states.

The 6th Circuit said shifting the Department of Homeland Security's priorities fell well within the agency's enforcement discretion, and Arizona, Ohio and Montana could not show that it would cause them any harm.

The 5th Circuit sharply diverged from its sister circuit on Wednesday, saying the discretion vested in DHS does not mean it can pick and choose which federal laws it enforces.

The panel also said Texas and Louisiana had shown that the enforcement guidelines would burden the states by increasing their costs for incarceration, public education and healthcare.

The decision strongly suggests that the Biden administration will lose its appeal, creating a circuit split and making it more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately step in to review the DHS guidance.

The 5th Circuit panel includes Circuit Judges Edith Jones, Edith Brown Clement and Kurt Engelhardt, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents.

The case is Texas v. United States, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-40367.

For the states: Benjamin Wilson of the Texas Attorney General's office

For the Biden administration: Sean Janda of the U.S. Department of Justice

Read more:

States can't block Biden admin. shift on immigration enforcement

U.S. judge blocks Biden administration policy narrowing immigration enforcement

U.S. immigration agents to more narrowly target migrants for deportation

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at