Texas Approves Sweeping New Powers to Enforce Immigration Laws
Texas has approved a new law granting sweeping powers to enforce immigration laws, leading to controversy and opposition from legal experts, legislators, and Mexico's government.
Critics have likened this measure to the controversial 2010 Arizona law known as the "Show Me Your Papers" bill, which was largely invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is worth noting that immigration enforcement falls under federal jurisdiction, which makes Texas' new law vulnerable to legal challenges.
Under this law, any Texas law enforcement officer has the power to arrest individuals suspected of entering the country illegally. Once apprehended, these individuals must either comply with a Texas judge's order to leave the U.S. or face prosecution on misdemeanor charges for illegal entry. If they refuse to leave, they could be arrested again on more serious felony charges.
Governor Abbott, who signed the law at a section of the border fence in Brownsville, expresses confidence that the number of illegal crossings into Texas will decrease significantly due to the severity of the consequences imposed by the law. He anticipates a reduction of "well over 50%, maybe 75%."
Texas Republicans have been increasingly assertive in challenging the federal government's control over immigration. They argue that President Joe Biden's administration has failed to adequately address the situation at the southern border, which spans 1,950 miles. In an effort to demonstrate their stance, Texas has transported over 65,000 migrants to cities across the country since August 2022. The state has also taken measures like installing razor wire along the banks of the Rio Grande, unintentionally causing harm to some asylum-seekers.
Furthermore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily closed two railroad border crossings in Texas on Monday. This decision aimed to redirect officers to assist in processing migrants. However, rail operators expressed concerns about the impact these closures would have on trade leading up to Christmas.
The recently implemented Texas measure has come under fire from legal experts who argue that it violates the U.S. government's jurisdiction over immigration enforcement. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has vowed to challenge the law in court, and over 20 congressional Democrats have signed a letter urging the U.S. Justice Department to take legal action against it.
Mexico's government has also voiced its opposition to the law. While bilateral and international agreements require Mexico to accept the deportation of its own citizens, the Texas law broadens the scope by allowing deportations of individuals from other countries. This move contradicts existing agreements. Under the law, migrants ordered to leave would be sent to ports of entry along the Mexico border, even if they are not Mexican citizens.
Addressing concerns raised during the November debate in the Texas House, GOP state Rep. David Spiller clarified that the law is not intended to be a widespread roundup and deportation of all immigrants. He emphasized that enforcement efforts would primarily focus on border counties, refuting proposals to narrow the law, such as exempting police on college campuses.
Critics argue that Texas Republicans are leveraging this law as an opportunity to prompt the Supreme Court's conservative majority to reconsider a crucial 2012 decision made in Arizona. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy recognized Arizona's frustrations with undocumented immigrants but stressed the need to abide by federal law without undermining it.