(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration asked the US Supreme Court to block a Texas law that would let the state arrest and deport people who enter the country illegally, adding another politically charged case to the court’s election year calendar.

The filing comes two days after a federal appeals court decision that would let the measure take effect. Justice Samuel Alito immediately paused that ruling until March 13 while the Supreme Court decides how to handle the matter.

The Biden administration says the law usurps federal authority. The law would mean “profoundly altering the status quo that has existed between the United States and the states in the context of immigration for almost 150 years,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top courtroom lawyer, said in a court filing.

Overriding this longstanding precedent is exactly what Texas hopes to do through the litigation, which is one of many border security cases the state is pursing that threaten to undermine the balance of power between the federal government and states at the border. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the 2024 presidential campaign.

The law, called Senate Bill 4, grants state officials the power to arrest, detain, and remove from the country individuals who don’t have the right to be in the US. The law closely resembles an Arizona statute that the Supreme Court mostly struck down 12 years ago.

The federal government cited that case in its Monday filing with the Supreme Court, writing that the Texas law is “flatly inconsistent” with more than a century of court precedent and would undermine the country’s ability to speak “with one voice” in issues related to foreign affairs.

The law “would create chaos in the United States’ efforts to administer federal immigration law,” Prelogar said.

Texas argues that the Biden administration has failed to address the influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border, so the state should be able to take action.

“If the federal government is not going to protect our country, then the states have a right to step up and protect the citizens,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a February interview with Bloomberg News.

Alito is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Supreme Court case is United States v. Texas, 23A814.


(Updates with Alito entering administrative stay in second paragraph.)

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