Since the beginning of his administration, Biden has tried to wind down the policy, which sends certain non-Mexican citizens who entered the US back to Mexico — instead of detaining them or releasing them into the United States — while their immigration proceedings played out.
The ruling was 5-4, and states that immigration law gives the federal government the discretion to end the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols. The case will go back down to lower courts for additional proceedings around his latest attempt to end the program. A hold on Biden’s bid to end the program remains in place, but Thursday’s ruling suggested that that order should be lifted shortly.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the relevant immigration statute “plainly confers a discretionary authority to return aliens to Mexico during the pendency of their immigration proceedings.”
“The use of the word ‘may” in” the law question, Roberts wrote, “makes clear that contiguous-territory return is a tool that the (DHS) Secretary ‘has the authority, but not the duty,’ to use.”
The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for the Biden immigration agenda as the administration has suffered several losses in lower courts in its efforts to reverse Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Several of the red states that challenged the termination of Migrant Protection Protocols have also brought lawsuits challenging other attempts by Biden to pivot away from his predecessor’s aggressive approach and those cases are still working their way through lower courts.