WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court removed two high-profile border security cases from its docket on Wednesday, one concerning the Trump administration’s building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and the other concerning keeping migrants in Mexico while their petitions to enter the United States are pending.
The Biden administration advised the justices that the government was reversing course on both matters and that rulings from the Court might no longer be necessary, and so the justices started the process for dismissing the cases.
These cases have been in federal court since former President Donald Trump began implementing his 2016 campaign promises to deal with the long-standing immigration problems on America’s southern border. Both policies were met with immediate legal challenges that have been working their way through the court system.
In 2018, Trump’s team implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), invoking special authorities in immigration law allowing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to keep certain applicants for admission into the United States on Mexican soil while reviewing their claims for admission. Previously, those aliens would typically enter the U.S. illegally, then be released into the general American population while their claims were being reviewed. The vast majority of those claims would ultimately be rejected, but often the illegal aliens would have already disappeared into this country and would remain here indefinitely.
In 2019, Trump declared a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexican border, and the Office of Management and Budget found various funding streams in the federal budget that could be redirected to finance construction of the border wall. Those funding decisions survived initial court challenges, resulting in over 400 miles of border wall built during the Trump administration.
Those challenges finally reached the Supreme Court in 2020. The justices granted review, and the Trump administration had filed briefs defending those policies, which were slated for oral arguments in 2021, with decisions to be handed down by June.
Immediately upon taking office, President Joe Biden decided to reverse course on both policies. The U.S. Department of Justice then informed the Court of these developments, resulting in the Court’s removing those cases from the docket of upcoming argument dates. Though technically on hold at the moment, both cases are expected to be sent back to the lower courts for dismissal in the coming weeks.
Typically there are changes of course in several high-profile cases when a new political party takes control of the White House. Although the justices generally frown on the government’s reversing a legal position that has already been submitted to the Court, when the facts of a matter change in such a dramatic way that the government is now aligned with the challengers, cases are often deemed moot and dismissed.
The cases are Mayorkas v. Innovation Law Lab and Biden v. Sierra Club, Nos. 19-1212 and 20-138 in the Supreme Court of the United States.