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Appeals court blocks Texas immigration law shortly after Supreme Court action

The decision comes just hours after the Supreme Court said the measure, known as SB 4, could go into effect while litigation continues.
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A federal appeals court Tuesday night ordered that a contentious new Texas immigration law be paused just hours after the Supreme Court said it could go into effect.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1 in saying in a brief order that the measure, known as Senate Bill 4, should be blocked. The same court is hearing arguments on the issue Wednesday morning.

The state law would allow police to arrest migrants who illegally cross the border from Mexico and impose criminal penalties. It would also empower state judges to order people to be deported to Mexico.

migrants water cross children carry
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. cross the Rio Bravo on the border of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Tuesday.Herika Martinez / AFP - Getty Images

The Supreme Court's order prompted alarm among immigrant rights activists amid confusion on the ground about whether the law could be enforced immediately.

The appeals court appeared to be taking the hint from the Supreme Court, which in rejecting an emergency application filed by the Biden administration put the onus on the appeals court to act quickly.

"If a decision does not issue soon, the applicants may return to this court,” conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in a separate opinion joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

On the appeals court, Judges Priscilla Richman and Irma Carillo Ramirez voted to block the law. Judge Andrew Oldham voted for it to remain in effect while the court considers whether to block it.

Richman and Oldham are both appointees, while Ramirez was appointed by President Joe Biden.

The Biden administration has argued that the law conflicts with federal immigration law and that states have no authority to legislate on the issue.