Migrants are held for processing in El Paso, Texas, on March 27, 2019, after the implementation of President Donald Trump's "Remain in Mexico" program. The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Joe Biden has the authority to end the program. File Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo
June 30 (UPI) -- After more than a year of dueling decisions in lower federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Joe Biden has the power to end a controversial Trump-era immigration policy that barred some refugees from entering the United States to wait out their applications.
On his first day in office, Biden ordered the end to the Migrant Protection Protocols -- also known as the "Remain in Mexico" program. It required many asylum-seekers from Latin America to stay in Mexico or another country until their immigration applications are settled.
Lawsuits from Republican-controlled states, including Texas, sued Biden's administration and sought to have the MPP policy reinstated. Eventually, the courts said that Biden's administration didn't have the authority to end the program and ordered that it be resumed.
In a 5-4 decision Thursday, the Supreme Court disagreed -- and said that Biden had lawfully acted within his powers when he terminated the program.
Progressive Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer were joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Writing for the majority, Roberts said that Congress gives the president "contiguous-territory return authority in expressly discretionary terms." That means that whether to keep or dismiss the Trump-era policy is entirely at Biden's discretion.
Roughly 70,000 refugees had applied for U.S. entry between the time the MPP policy began in 2019 and 2021, when Biden suspended it.
The controversial policy led to significant troubles for President Donald Trump's administration, particularly as it became known that some of the migrants were forced to stay in Mexico in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Before the MPP, U.S. policy allowed the asylum-seekers to wait out their applications in the United States.
Justices Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett disagreed with the decision. Barrett said that she agreed with the majority on the merits of the ruling, but contended that the matter should have been sent back to lower courts to decide.
Alito wrote that the government should not "simply release into this country untold numbers of aliens who are very likely to be removed if they show up for their removal hearings."
"This practice violates the clear terms of the law, but the court looks the other way," he added.