High Court Grants Biden Request to Drop Trump-Era Immigration Cases

After his election win over Donald Trump, President Joe Biden asked the justices to not weigh in on policies he plans to roll back.

Then-President Donald Trump tours a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request from the Biden administration to drop two Trump-era immigration cases from this month’s argument calendar because the policies at issue are likely to be rescinded.  

“In light of these recent developments, petitioners respectfully request that the court hold further briefing in abeyance and remove this case from the February 2021 argument calendar,” wrote Elizabeth B. Prelogar, the Justice Department’s acting solicitor general, in two nearly identical motions for abeyance filed Monday evening.

Prelogar said in the filings that President Joe Biden had directed the executive branch to “undertake an assessment” of the legality of Trump’s policies and suggested it would be best if the courts remove the cases from the argument calendar for now, but said they could be put back on the docket “should the matter not be resolved.”

One case deals with Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, the policy more commonly understood as “Remain in Mexico,” which has affected more than 60,000 Central American asylum seekers, sending them to potentially dangerous cities in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated in U.S. courts.

Before this process was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Justice Department estimated in February that 25,000 people were waiting in Mexico for asylum hearings. Innovation Law Lab had led the challenge.

The second suit centers on Trump’s roundabout efforts to fund his long-promised wall along the country’s southern border. The former president declared drug smuggling across the border a national emergency in February 2019, which allowed the Department of Defense to transfer $2.5 billion which had been earmarked for other purposes to wall construction. 

Twenty states, led by California, sued over the transfer. They claimed the Trump administration exceeded its authority because the federal law used to rationalize the shift in funds does not permit the transfer of funds after the request has been denied by Congress. The Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition made similar claims in a separate lawsuit, and the cases were consolidated on appeal.

The court announced the cases’ removal from the docket without comment in an order list released Wednesday morning.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the high court’s orders. 

Gloria Smith, managing attorney at the Sierra Club, said in a statement her group was relieved to see a pause on the controversial border wall project.  

“Constructing a wall has stripped environmental, cultural and health protections from border communities, bulldozed through tribal sites and burial grounds, and left irreversible scars on wildlife habitat and local towns,” she added. “The new administration must implement a new vision for the borderlands— one that protects human rights, tribal sovereignty and the environment.”

ACLU attorney Judy Rabinovitz, the lead lawyer in the challenge to Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, also expressed optimism on Biden’s plans but appeared open to pursuing the issue if he fails to follow through with a full repeal of the policy.  

“The administration needs to make the announced suspension permanent and address the situation of the thousands of migrants who remain stranded in Mexico under the policy,” she said in an emailed statement.

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