Immigrants’ case: Texas vs. Washington

10:09 23.12.2023 •

A surge as many as 12,000 immigrants per day crossing the U.S. southern border has overwhelmed U.S. immigration authorities in recent weeks.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a law that will allow state law enforcement to arrest people suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The law will take effect in March and makes it a crime to illegally enter or re-enter Texas, with penalties ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison. Record numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since Democratic President Joe Biden took office, The Daily Mail informs.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott set himself on a collision course with Joe Biden as he enacted sweeping powers to deal with the migrant crisis.

The laws will enable cops to arrest illegal migrants and allow judges to boot them back across the Mexico border. The Republican governor said it could slash the number of crossings by up to three quarters – but the Biden administration is bound to attack its constitutional legality.

It comes as 2,000 migrants are crossing the frontier everyday, with Texas bearing the brunt of the crisis. Biden has failed to confront the spiraling humanitarian disaster at the border and even received criticism from within Democratic ranks.

Opponents have called Abbott's measure the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since a 2010 Arizona law - denounced by critics as the 'Show Me Your Papers' bill – that was largely struck down by the US Supreme Court.  

The law will likely face a quick legal challenge by the White House, which has pushed back on the Governor’s previous attempts to reduce the flow of migrants.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed three bills into law at a border wall construction site in Brownsville, Texas

The law, known as SB4, takes effect in March and allows any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people who are suspected of entering the country illegally. Those who re-enter face penalties ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison.

Abbott, who signed the law in front of a section of border fence in Brownsville, Texas, predicted the number of people crossing illegally into Texas would drop by 'well over 50 percent, maybe 75 percent.' He did not offer evidence for such an estimate.

Once in custody, illegal migrants could either agree to a Texas judge's order to leave the US or be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry.

Migrants who don't leave could face arrest again under more serious felony charges.

Abbott accused the White House of doing 'nothing to halt illegal immigration.'

'Joe Biden's deliberate inaction has decimated America,' Abbott said.

'The consequences of [the new law] are so extreme that the people being smuggled by the cartels, they will not want to be coming into the state of Texas,' he said.

Abbott claimed 8million people have crossed the border illegally since Biden, a Democrat, took office in January 2021.

Abbott defended the new law as constitutional, saying Texas had been left to 'fend for itself.' Typically, immigration policy and enforcement have been the responsibility of the federal government. But several southern governors have taken the matter into their own hands saying Biden has dropped the ball.

Abbott said the bill passed by the Republican-majority Texas state legislature last month was needed to 'stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas.'

Abbott said the bill makes it a 'criminal offense for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation.

'For repeat offenders it creates the offense of illegal reentry with a potential prison sentence term of up to 20 years,' he said.

The bill also 'provides a mechanism to order an illegal immigrant to return to the foreign nation from which they entered,' he said.

Migrant crossings have remained at roughly 2,000 per day within the Del Rio Sector with most of those being encountered Venezuelans, Hondurans and Colombians.

In this aerial view, Texas National Guard troops direct a group of more than 1,000 immigrants towards a U.S. Border Patrol processing center after the migrants crossed the Rio Grande.

The law adds another tension point over immigration amid a struggle between the White House and Senate negotiators to reach a deal on border security.

Republicans in Congress are demanding changes to the immigration system in exchange for any help for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs.

Texas Republicans have increasingly challenged the U.S. government's authority over immigration, saying President Joe Biden's administration isn't doing enough to control the 1,950-mile  southern border.

The state has experimented with a range of measures to deter people who cross illegally under its Operation Lone Star, including deploying National Guard troops to the border, blocking migrants with deadly concertina wire and installing a floating barrier over a stretch of the Rio Grande.

Texas has bused more than 65,000 migrants to cities across America since August 2022 and recently installed razor wire along the banks of the Rio Grande, which has snagged and injured some asylum-seekers.  

Troy Miller, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's acting commissioner, said the closures at Eagle Pass and El Paso were a response to more migrants traveling on freight trains, particularly over the last week.

Miller said authorities are seeing 'unprecedented' arrivals at the border, topping 10,000 crossings on some days this month.

Shortly after Abbott signed the new law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said it would challenge the measure in court.

More than 20 congressional Democrats also signed a letter urging the U.S. Justice Department to sue to stop the law, known as Senate Bill 4.

'SB 4 is dangerous for the people of Texas and interferes with the federal government´s exclusive authority over immigration and foreign affairs,' the letter read.

Mexico's government also has rebuked the measure. Under bilateral and international agreements, Mexico is required to accept deportations of its own citizens, but not those of other countries.

Under the Texas law, migrants ordered to leave would be sent to ports of entry along the border with Mexico, even if they are not Mexican citizens.

In September and October, Venezuelans were the largest nationality arrested illegally crossing the U.S. border.


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