A federal appeals court early Wednesday extended its hold on a new Texas immigration law, meaning the measure cannot go into effect while litigation continues.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a 2-1 vote said in a decision issued overnight that the statute, known as Senate Bill 4, should remain blocked. The same court temporarily froze the law March 19, just hours after the Supreme Court said it could go into effect.

“For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration—the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens—is exclusively a federal power,” Judge Priscilla Richman wrote for the majority.

She cited in part a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that invalided a similar law in Arizona.

Whatever the state’s criticisms about the federal government’s “actions and inactions” on immigration, it is the president’s role “to decide whether, and if so, how to pursue noncitizens illegally present in the United States,” Richman wrote.

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

The dispute is the latest clash between the Biden administration and Texas over immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Texas could now ask the Supreme Court to allow the law to go into effect. In the meantime, the appeals court holds another hearing April 3.

Richman and Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez voted to block the law. Judge Andrew Oldham voted for it to go into effect.

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

It was the same lineup of judges who issued the temporary block.

Oldham wrote a lengthy dissenting opinion saying the law should not be blocked in full because of hypothetical concerns about how it would be enforced.

Because of the federal government’s struggles to control immigration, “the state is forever helpless” to respond if it cannot legislate on the issue, he said.

“Texas can do nothing because Congress apparently did everything, yet federal non-enforcement means Congress’s everything is nothing,” Oldham wrote.

A federal judge blocked the law after the Biden administration sued, but the appeals court initially said in a brief order that it could go into effect March 10 if the Supreme Court declined to intervene. In the meantime, the appeals court delayed a decision on whether to impose a more permanent block during Texas’ appeal.

The Supreme Court initially put the law on hold while it determined what steps to take, but on March 19 said it would allow the measure to go into effect, with the understanding that the appeals court would act quickly on the underlying case.

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 get the message and immediately imposed the new hold on the law while it considered Texas’ appeal of the district court injunction.

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