Monday, July 15, 2024

In a bold move against federal authority over immigration, the Texas House has approved a state-level crime for entering the country from Mexico between ports of entry. This legislation grants local police agencies the power to arrest and detain unauthorized migrants or send them back to Mexico. Governor Greg Abbott had called for this measure as part of his border security program, Operation Lone Star. The Texas House also allocated an additional $1.5 billion for the construction of state barriers along the international boundary. The arrest measure will now be sent back to the Senate, which has already approved its own version, and then to Governor Abbott for his signature. Many Republicans argued that this approach is both humane and efficient, while Democrats expressed concerns about unintentionally targeting Hispanic Texans. This legislation pushes the boundaries of state power in immigration enforcement, typically a federal responsibility. It is likely to lead to a legal battle and potentially revisit a 2012 Supreme Court case that upheld the federal government’s primary role in setting immigration policy. State police officials in Texas have already discussed how they would use the new law to detain migrants caught crossing the Rio Grande, directing them back to Mexico or arresting them if they refuse. The legislation does not address exceptions for migrants making asylum claims or the potential conflicts with federal law. While the existing coordination between Texas law enforcement and the US Border Patrol is unclear, tensions have grown recently due to the state’s more aggressive approach towards migrants crossing the border and conflicts over the placement of buoys and concertina wire in the river. The passage of this legislation is expected to increase tensions and raise new concerns.

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