Federal Judge To Examine a Texas Law Allowing Police To Detain Immigrants for Unauthorized Entry

  • Texas passed a law giving state law enforcement immigration enforcement powers.
  • In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Arizona.
  • The US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause states that federal law preempts state law when the two conflict.
  • A federal judge recently heard arguments in a case about the Texas law.

(NewsReady.com) – Texas and President Joe Biden’s administration are on a collision course for the Supreme Court again. Governor Greg Abbott and the POTUS have been battling for years over immigration issues. The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling to allow federal agents to remove razor wire that Texas has erected along the US-Mexico border.

The state also passed a law that would give Texas law enforcement and judges the power of immigration authorities. A dispute over this was recently heard by a federal judge.

Senate Bill 4

In December, Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) into law. The law is set to go into effect on March 5. It would allow police officers to act as immigration officers by permitting them to detain people they believe might be undocumented immigrants who have entered the country illegally through the US-Mexico border.

The law makes entering the country illegally a state crime that’s punishable by up to six months in jail. Additionally, it allows police to charge immigrants who were previously deported or denied entry with “illegal re-entry.” The criminal penalty for that crime is 10 to 20 years in prison.

SB 4 gives judges in Texas the power to order the deportation of some immigrants. Those who fail to comply with the deportation orders will be charged with a felony that’s punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Judge Hears Challenge

On February 15, lawyers for the Department of Justice and the Abbott administration faced off in federal court over SB 4. According to the Texas Tribune, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton denied the federal government has “abandoned” its obligation to enforce immigration laws and said there was not an “invasion” at the southern border. Abbott argues the “invasion” has given him the right to enforce immigration law at the state level.

Boynton also raised concerns that Texas’ law would not allow immigrants to file for asylum, something they are entitled to do under federal law.

Texas’ attorney, Ryan Walters, stated that immigrants who are charged under state law could file for asylum from jail. US District Judge David Ezra told Walters that judges who hear the cases would have to decide whether to follow state or federal law. He pointed out that SB 4 prohibits state courts from considering the immigrant’s federal immigration case while the federal law mandates courts to consider it, creating a conflict between the state and federal laws.

Ezra also appeared to have an issue with the portion of the law that would allow state courts to hear felony immigration cases. Currently, only federal judges have jurisdiction over those cases. Further, he disputed the Texas position that there was an “invasion,” saying the state was unable to “point [him] to any type of military invasion in Texas.”

The judge said he would make a decision before the law was set to take effect.

No matter which way the judge in Texas rules, the decision will likely be appealed and eventually make it to the high court. If the previous precedent is any indication of what will happen, it doesn’t look good for the Lone Star State. Then again, the new conservative court is known for striking down the court’s longstanding precedents.

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