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US Supreme Court's Alito extends pause on Texas immigration law

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court building is seen as justices released their financial disclosure reports in Washington

By John Kruzel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday extended a temporary pause on a Republican-backed Texas law allowing state law enforcement authorities to arrest people suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Alito's action gives the justices more time to weigh a request by President Joe Biden's administration to freeze a judicial order allowing the Texas law to take effect while its challenge proceeds in the lower courts. The administration has said the Texas measure violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law by interfering with the U.S. government's power to regulate immigration.

Alito handles certain emergency matters involving cases from a group of states including Texas. His order did not specify a deadline. He or the full Supreme Court could take further action at any time.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott last December signed the law, authorizing state law enforcement to arrest people suspected of entering the United States illegally, giving local officers powers long delegated to the U.S. government.

The Justice Department sued in January to block the measure, which was originally set to take effect on March 5.

Texas-based U.S. District David Ezra on Feb. 29 sided with the administration and agreed to preliminarily block Texas officials from enforcing the law, saying that it "threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice."

But the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused Ezra's ruling in an order that would have let the law take effect on March 10, prompting the administration to file an emergency request to the Supreme Court.

Alito on March 4 halted the 5th Circuit ruling - and thus the law - from taking effect, with an order that was set to expire on Monday before he extended the pause.

(Reporting by John Kruzel; Editing by Will Dunham)