Texas Governor Signs Law Giving Police Power to Arrest Illegal Immigrants

Texas Governor Signs Law Giving Police Power to Arrest Illegal Immigrants


The new law is likely to face legal challenges given that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a border security bill into law that will give state law enforcement broad authority to arrest migrants who have entered Texas illegally and allow local judges to order them out of the country.

The Dec. 18 move by the Republican governor puts into place one of the nation’s strictest immigration laws and sets up a clash with the federal government which has authority over immigration policy. Under the new rules, all law enforcement officials in the state of Texas, including those who are hundreds of miles from the border, would have the authority to detain migrants suspected of entering the nation illegally.

Because the offense is considered a misdemeanor, the judge has the authority to order the defendant to leave the country.

Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, so the law is likely to face swift legal challenges.

“Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” Mr. Abbott said in a bill-signing ceremony at the border wall in Brownsville, Texas.

Separately Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily shut down two railroad border crossings in Texas to shift officers to helping process migrants. Rail operators said the closures at Eagle Pass and El Paso would hamper trade ahead of Christmas.

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Opponents of the new law argue that it could result in racial profiling or the unlawful arrest of citizens and immigrants who are legal residents. Additionally, Democrats said it would make immigrant victims of crime apprehensive about calling the police.

The new legislation does not apply to residents who have been in the nation for more than two years, according to state Rep. David Spiller, one of the Republicans carrying the bill.

In its defense, he stated it would be implemented primarily in the vicinity of the border and that it contained adequate safeguards.

Legal experts and organizations that advocate for immigrant rights have voiced their opposition to the Texas legislation, arguing that it is in direct opposition to the jurisdiction of the U.S. government to regulate immigration.

Democrats asserted that Texas Republicans are seeking to have the newly appointed conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court reconsider a case from 2012 that invalidated significant sections of previous immigration legislation.

Concerns were also expressed by the Mexican government, which has already voiced its opposition to other moves taken by Texas along the border.

It is highly probable that it will face challenges in court. Opponents will argue that it is a blatant breach of the law in the United States, as the authority to deport individuals is entirely vested in the federal government.

Mr. Abbott, currently serving his third term as governor of Texas, has made the implementation of increasingly aggressive policies at the border between Texas and Mexico a central focus of his administration.

In addition to providing law enforcement with broader arrest powers, Republicans in Texas are on pace to approve $1.5 billion to pay for the continuation of the construction of an addition to federal border wall sections.

In recent months, Texas has also filed a lawsuit in an effort to maintain a floating barrier on the Rio Grande and to prohibit agents of the Border Patrol from destroying razor wire.

Mr. Abbott has made border security a critical part of his administration, largely through a program in cooperation with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas National Guard, called Operation Lone Star, which launched in March of 2021.

The operation is an effort to secure the border by barring the entry of drugs, weapons, and people as well as counter transnational criminal activities between ports of entry.

According to a Dec. 15 press release from Mr. Abbott’s office, Operation Lone Star’s collective efforts have resulted in over 489,500 apprehensions of illegal immigrants and more than 37,500 criminal arrests, including over 34,100 felony charges.

The operation has also relocated migrant groups to a number of locations, including over 12,500 migrants who have been bused to Washington, DC, since April 2022, along with significant numbers also transported to New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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