The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Biden's broad power to enforce the immigration laws, ruling he may repeal the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy that barred most Central American migrants from entering the United States to seek asylum.
The 5-4 decision in Biden vs. Texas reversed lower court rulings that held the Democratic administration must continue President Trump's strict border enforcement policy.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the court's three liberals, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Roberts said the law allowed the administration to return asylum seekers to Mexico, but did not require it to do so.
Facing a wave of migrants at the southern border, Trump announced a new policy in December 2018 to deter them. Migrants from Central America were told they could no longer enter the United States at a border crossing, apply for asylum and seek their release while their claims were pending, a process that can stretch over several years.
Instead, they were told they must wait in Mexico until their claims were set to be heard before an immigration judge.
Immigrant rights advocates condemned the Trump policy as unsafe and inhumane. Biden signaled his intent to repeal it in his first days in office.
But the new administration ran into a strong legal challenge from Republican state attorneys general in Texas and Missouri. They filed suits arguing that Biden's repeal of Trump's policy violated the law and procedural rules. And they won rulings from Trump-appointed judges that blocked the repeal .
Last year, the Supreme Court turned away the administration's pleas and refused to intervene. But the justices agreed to hear full arguments in April.
At issue were conflicting provisions in immigration laws. Lawyers for Texas pointed out that one says most asylum seekers "shall be detained" until their cases are heard, or the government "may return" them to the territory where they entered.
Biden's lawyers pointed to other provisions that say asylum seekers may be released on parole in "a case-by-case" for urgent or humanitarian reasons. They also argued it has been understood for decades that the immigration authorities did not have nearly enough detention facilities to hold all the migrants who had pending asylum claims.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.