Federal Judge Blocks New Texas Law to Arrest Illegal Immigrants

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
February 29, 2024Judiciary
Federal Judge Blocks New Texas Law to Arrest Illegal Immigrants
A Border Patrol agent guides illegal immigrants that crossed into Shelby Park into a Border Patrol van to be taken to a processing center in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Feb. 4, 2024. (Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a Texas law that grants state police the capacity to arrest people who are suspected of illegally crossing the U.S.–Mexico border.

The measure, called Senate Bill 4 and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in December, was slated to go into effect on March 5, but U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy clause that grants the federal government sole authority over immigration matters. The judge also rejected Texas’s arguments that it was being invaded under the Constitution’s Article IV.

In his order, Judge Ezra, a Reagan appointee, said the law would run afoul federal immigration laws and claimed Texas would then be able to “permanently supersede federal directives” and would “amount to nullification of federal law and authority.” According to the judge, that’s a “notion that is antithetical to the Constitution and has been unequivocally rejected by federal courts since the Civil War.”

As a result, he argued, the federal government would “suffer grave irreparable harm” because other states would be inspired to pass similar measures. “SB 4 threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice,” he wrote.

At a Feb. 15 hearing, Judge Ezra expressed skepticism as the state pleaded its case for what is known as Senate Bill 4. He also said he was somewhat sympathetic to the concerns expressed by Mr. Abbott and other state officials about the unprecedented influx of illegal aliens. Judge Ezra then added that he feared the United States could become a confederation of states enforcing their own immigration laws.

“That is the same thing the Civil War said you can’t do,” he told the attorneys.

A lawyer for the state of Texas argued in court that due to the deluge of illegal immigrants, enabled by drug cartels and smugglers, it is tantamount to an invasion and that Texas has the right to defend itself under the Constitution.

But the judge said that while he is “sympathetic” to the state’s concerns, he appeared to be skeptical of the lawyer’s argument. “I haven’t seen, and the state of Texas can’t point me to any type of military invasion in Texas,” Judge Ezra said. “I don’t see evidence that Texas is at war.”

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has backed the law, saying that it would compliment his efforts to provide better border security, noting that his state has dealt with a surge of illegal crossings in recent years. Other measures that Mr. Abbott has implemented are a barrier in the Rio Grande, razor wire barriers at certain border crossings, and prohibiting federal agents tasked by the Biden administration with undoing these measures from accessing border areas in Texas.

Other state Republicans who back the law have said it would not target immigrants already living in the U.S. because of the two-year statute of limitations on the illegal entry charge and would be enforced only along the state’s border with Mexico.

Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as other groups in favor of illegal immigration, have said they oppose the measure. A director at the American Gateways group told the Texas Tribune she believes the law is “based on xenophobia and racism,” while not making “our communities safer,” without elaborating.

“No state has the right to unilaterally decide who gets to be American,” David Donatti, with the ACLU, told the outlet. “Doing so violates the Constitution, undermines human rights, and damages international relations.”

In the meantime, tensions have remained high between Texas and the Biden administration this year over who can patrol its border with Mexico and how. Other GOP governors have expressed support for Mr. Abbott, who has said the federal government is not doing enough to enforce immigration laws.

Several governors visited the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas earlier this month to show solidarity with Mr. Abbott’s efforts, while some pledged to send National Guard members to assist.

In a news release, the governor again said that President Joe Biden “has abandoned his constitutional duty to protect Americans by refusing to secure our southern border,” adding records for illegal immigration have been “smashed” under his administration. He also defended his policy of continuing to set up razor wire along the border after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal government, saying that agents must be provided access to the area.

A recent poll, meanwhile, revealed that about six in 10 Americans believe illegal immigration is a “very serious problem,” noting that concerns about the issue a higher under President Biden’s term than under the two previous presidents. Moreover, the survey, from Monmouth University, revealed another 23 percent see it as a “serious problem.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.