Texas Wins Key Legal Battle to Halt Illegal Immigration as Gov. Abbott Signs New Legislation
A day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed bills funding additional border barriers and making illegal entry a state crime, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Biden administration from removing the state’s razor wire fencing along a section of the Rio Grande.
Both actions are bound to trigger more legal wrangling, but Texas got an early Christmas bonus from the appellate court decision, which suggested that rather than impeding federal law enforcement, Texas’ policies are supplementing it.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and multiple immigrant-rights groups immediately filed suit in the Western District of Texas, claiming that the state overstepped its constitutional limits.
Senate Bill 4, scheduled to go into effect in March 2024, authorizes state and local police to arrest migrants who are believed to be in Texas without legal documentation. State judges can also order illegal aliens to be sent back to the foreign nation from which they entered.
Abbott said he welcomed the legal challenges in hopes they could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, and that the conservative majority could rule that states can have a bigger role in immigration enforcement.
In 2012, the high court struck down a section of an Arizona law (SB 1070) that made it a state crime to be in the United States illegally. The court ruled that the state had tried to usurp federal power, but upheld many other provisions of that law.
In the razor wire case, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court overturned a district judge’s decision, ruling that she misinterpreted federal immunity statutes. The panel said Texas was likely to prevail in its lawsuit against the Biden administration’s destruction of wire fencing in Maverick County, where thousands of migrants have been massing along the Rio Grande.
“There is generally no public interest in the perpetuation of unlawful agency action [and] substantial public interest in having governmental agencies abide by federal laws,” the court wrote, drawing an apparent distinction between Border Patrol agents dismantling barriers at the border and Texas officials acting to secure it.
The court gave Washington until Friday to respond.
In the past three years, the Texas Military Department has spent $11 million to place 70,000 rolls of concertina wire along parts of the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico.
Another measure signed by Abbott on Monday, Senate Bill 3, earmarks $1.54 billion to continue construction of border barriers, and funds up to $40 million for state troopers to patrol the controversial migrant enclave of Colony Ridge north of Houston.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Colony Ridge’s developer for allegedly targeting Hispanics with predatory loans, false advertising, and subpar housing as part of an illegal land scheme.