In an escalation in the ongoing immigration battle, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas on Wednesday over a new law that would allow state police to detain immigrants who enter the United States illegally. The law, known as Senate Bill 4 (SB4), is set to take effect in March, sparking a new dispute between the federal government and Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
SB4 not only authorizes police anywhere in Texas to detain immigrants accused of illegal entry but also grants judges the authority to order their removal from the country. The lawsuit filed in a federal court in Austin seeks to declare this law unconstitutional, arguing that it violates the Supremacy Clause, which establishes that, in most cases, federal laws prevail over state laws.
The Department of Justice argues that “Texas cannot manage its immigration system,” and that SB4 “frustrates the United States’ immigration operations and procedures and interferes with the United States’ foreign relations.” Governor Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
Texas’ law has raised concerns among civil rights advocates and officials in El Paso County, who filed a similar lawsuit last month, describing it as an unconstitutional overreach. The confrontation intensifies as cities like New York and Chicago reject the arrival of immigrants sent by Abbott, while the state faces legal battles over other border measures, such as barbed wire and floating barriers in the Rio Grande.
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In response to the threat of legal action, Abbott claimed that the Biden administration “not only refuses to enforce current U.S. immigration laws but now wants to prevent Texas from enforcing laws against illegal immigration.”
This Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson and about 60 Republicans visited the border city of Eagle Pass, the epicenter of Abbott’s $10 billion border initiative called Operation Lone Star. Johnson suggested the possibility of using the government funding deadline expiration to push for stricter border policies.
Illegal crossings along the U.S. southern border have surpassed 10,000 on several days in December, deemed “unprecedented” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller.
The situation led to the temporary closure of railway crossings in Eagle Pass and El Paso last month, with full operations resuming on bridges this week.
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