immigration, illegal immigration, migrants

Texas Immigration Law Roundly Criticized By Well, Everyone

The law allows officers to arrest whomever they suspect doesn't belong in the state, regardless of their actual immigration status.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a trio of bills on Dec. 18 that put more state resources into his never-ending war on immigration at the border of Texas and Mexico. According to the Texas Tribune, Senate Bill 3 sets aside $1.54 billion to continue constructing barriers along the southern border as well as allowing Texas to spend $40 million to patrol a single housing development near Houston, Colony Ridge, which far-right Republicans claim is an area teeming with undocumented immigrants.

Senate Bill 4 is a bill that will likely lead to a challenge from the federal government as it essentially makes entering the country illegally a crime in Texas. There is also a second Senate Bill 4, which increases the penalty for smuggling immigrants from two years to ten years. According to ABC News, the most recent Senate Bill 4 will go into effect in March 2024, but lawsuits against the bills could delay that.

Abbott characterized the bills as an attempt to protect Texans from the Mexican cartels, saying that the federal government and President Joe Biden have left Texas unprotected.

“Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” he said.

However, several immigrant rights organizations, Democrats, and former immigration judges say that the bill is a violation of the U.S. Constitution because the federal government is supposed to enforce immigration law, not the state government. 

According to Politico, Senate Bill 4 represents a very clear danger to residents in Texas, not just immigrants, as it gives the police broad interpretative power. The law allows officers to arrest whomever they suspect doesn’t belong in the state, regardless of their actual immigration status.

“The new law signed by Abbott allows any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people who are suspected of entering the country illegally. Once in custody, they could either agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry. Migrants who don’t comply could face arrest again under more serious felony charges.”

U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro has been vocal about his opposition to Abbott’s push against immigrants, both on Twitter/X and through more official channels. The congressman sent a letter to the Department of Justice, signed by other members of Congress, asking for the organization to sue the State of Texas so the law doesn’t take effect.

“We urge you to assert your authority over federal immigration and foreign policy and pursue legal action, as appropriate, to stop this unconstitutional and dangerous legislation from going into effect.”

Thirty former immigration judges released a statement to the Tribune, declaring that the bill is unconstitutional.

“The proposed Texas legislation, which would allow a state court magistrate judge to issue a removal order, is not lawful. Immigration is plainly a federal function,” the statement says. “State legislators cannot enact immigration laws for the same reasons that the United States Congress cannot enact Texas state legislation. State magistrate judges cannot conduct immigration proceedings for the same reason that federal Immigration Judges cannot adjudicate Texas state criminal cases.”

NPR talked to Haim Vasquez, a Dallas-area lawyer, who told them that he is concerned about the broad powers that the law gives to the state, reducing the purview of an immigrant’s due process, saying, “This law is written horribly. It’s terrible,” Vasquez said. “The law is not taking into consideration the current process or future process that an undocumented migrant could have in immigration court or through affirmative work, whether it’s marriage, possible asylum, work authorization under parole, or a family petition either by a sibling or a child or a spouse.”

Mexico, according to NPR, has also already pushed back against the law. Ahead of the law’s signing, in November, Mexico issued a statement condemning the proposed treatment of Mexican citizens by the state of Texas. “The Government of Mexico categorically rejects any measure that allows state or local authorities to detain and return Mexican or foreign nationals to Mexican territory,” the foreign ministry said. “The Government of Mexico will continue its efforts with the U.S. government to address the issue of migration, and reiterates its commitment to protect the rights of all Mexicans abroad.”

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