Judicial chaos colors rollout of new, draconian Texas immigration law

Plus, the impending war over IVF.

Top Headlines

Confusion has ensued after the enforcement of Texas’ new immigration bill, known as Senate Bill 4, was left up in the air following a gauntlet of legal rulings. Last night, the Supreme Court rejected the Biden administration’s attempts to block SB 4 on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional. The Court’s decision fell along ideological lines, with the six conservative justices backing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) latest efforts to crack down on border crossings. 

SB 4 would allow Texas police at both the local and state to enforce immigration law — which is typically under the jurisdiction of federal departments like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CPB). Such conflicts between the two parties are part of a longstanding disagreement on how to deal with the influx of undocumented migrants. 

When it appeared that SB 4 was set to go into effect, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a condemnation, calling the law “harmful” and maintaining that such efforts “will not only make communities in Texas less safe, it will also burden law enforcement, and sow chaos and confusion at our southern border. S.B. 4 is just another example of Republican officials politicizing the border while blocking real solutions.” 

But just hours after the Supreme Court’s pronouncement, the New Orleans-based Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the pause on the bill — which was originally intended to go into effect on March 5 — until a three-judge panel can assess arguments from both the federal government and the state of Texas. 

Both rulings come only weeks after the Fifth Circuit Court paused District Judge David Ezra’s decision to block Texas’ enforcement of SB 4 before litigation had ended. 

Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas at Austin law professor, told the Texas Tribune that the situation is “indefensibly chaotic.”

“Even if that means SB 4 remains paused indefinitely, hopefully everyone can agree that this kind of judicial whiplash is bad for everyone,” Vladeck said. 

Meanwhile, Brian Hawthorne, the legislative director for the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, said that despite the legal turmoil, state law enforcement was “standing by.”

“There is a lot of political wrangling going on now. There is no question there is a disaster at the border,” Hawthorne explained in a recent CNN interview. 

Eyes on the Right

The Heritage Foundation, one of the country’s most influential conservative think tanks, has thrown its hat into the recent in-vitro fertilization (IVF) debate that has erupted since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that “embryos created through IVF should be considered children.”

“There are profound moral issues with the way IVF is practiced in the U.S.—in many cases, amounting to eugenics,” Emma Waters, a senior research associate with the Foundation, wrote in a new report. “IVF in the U.S. relies on the destruction of embryos, intentionally or not. Alabama’s supreme court declared that embryos, under a wrongful death suit, are persons … The well-being of children, not profit margins, should be the top priority when it comes to IVF and embryonic cryopreservation.” 

Waters’ report lays out a litany of ways in which Congress could regulate the industry, such as limiting the amount of embryos, disallowing anonymous donations of eggs and sperms and encouraging couples to explore alternatives to IVF. 

But why has the right become preoccupied with this marginal method of birthing children? It would appear it’s more than just further regulating the bodies of mothers. It’s about enforcing and creating laws on a theological basis. 

“The court is privileging one religious sect—dominionist Christians—over all others, and it is doing this to extract legal payments from others, namely hospitals and clinics, that don’t share the justices’ religious viewpoint,” The Nation’s Elie Mystal explained in a recent analysis. “Using the power of the state to force others to live in accordance with a particular religious belief is the very definition of state-sponsored religion.”

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Jamie Larson