Texas’ migrant detention law has been temporarily suspended under the latest court ruling

(Eric Gay/associated press)

Texas’ migrant arrest law has been temporarily suspended under the latest court ruling

Immigration and the border

March 27, 2024

A Texas law that allows the state to arrest and deport migrants suspected of entering the U.S. illegally will remain on hold for now, a federal appeals court ruled.

The 2-1 ruling late Tuesday from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to block enforcement of the law until a final decision on its merits is made, either by the 5th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling followed a March 20 hearing by a three-judge panel of the court. It’s just the latest step in a see-saw lawsuit over the Republican government. Greg Abbott’s tough new immigration law, which isn’t over yet.

The Justice Department has argued that the Texas law is a clear violation of federal authority and would cause chaos at the border. Texas has argued that the Biden administration is not doing enough to police the border and that the state has the right to take action.

Judge Priscilla Richman, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, cited a 2010 Arizona law largely struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and said immigration enforcement is solely a federal responsibility.

The appeals court again blocks Texas’ controversial immigration law

For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration—the entry, admission and removal of noncitizens—is solely a federal power, Richman wrote.

an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush.

Texas law,

Richman wrote that she continued:

“creates separate, distinct criminal offenses and related proceedings relating to the unauthorized entry of noncitizens into Texas from outside the country and their removal.

She was joined in the opinion by Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez, an appointee of President Biden.

Judge Andrew Oldham, an appointee of former President Trump and a former aide to Abbott, dissented from the majority decision.

How Texas’ plans to arrest migrants for illegal entry would work if put into effect

Oldham wrote that the Biden administration faced a high bar for usurping the sovereign power Texas has to enforce a law its people and leaders want. The judge predicted the same 2-1 split when considering the merits of the case as the legal challenge plays out.

There is a real danger in this approach. In our federal system, the state of Texas is supposed to retain at least some of its sovereignty,” Oldham wrote. “The people should be able to use that sovereignty to elect representatives and send them to Austin to debate and enact laws that respond to the needs that Texans experience and that Texans want to address.

The law went into effect on March 19 just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way. But the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the case. Instead, it sent the case back to the 5th Circuit, which then stayed enforcement while it considered the final appeal.

The last statement holds the block in place.

Spokespeople for Abbott and state Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday morning.

Judge blocks Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants

The law signed by Abbott allows any law enforcement officer in Texas to arrest people suspected of entering the country illegally, but that short window of time, while the law went into effect, revealed that many sheriffs were unprepared, incapable or disinterested in the first place in enforcing SB4.

Sheriff Thaddeus Cleveland of Terrell County, which is more than 50 miles from the border, told a meeting of about 100 sheriffs at the Capitol last week that there is no practical way for him to enforce the law.

Cleveland said he has no way to transport people, that the jail can only hold seven people and that the nearest port of entry is more than a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, chairman of the Texas Sheriffs Assn., said the law would have little effect in his East Texas jurisdiction, which is closer to Louisiana and Oklahoma than Mexico, which is nearly 400 miles away.

The divided Supreme Court clears the way for Texas to arrest migrants suspected of illegal entry

Once in custody, migrants can either comply with a Texas judge’s order to leave the U.S. or face criminal charges of illegal entry. Migrants who do not leave could be rearrested on more serious charges.

Texas has not announced any arrests during the short time the law was previously in effect. Authorities have given different explanations for how they might enforce the law. Mexico has said it will refuse to take back anyone ordered by Texas to cross the border.

The law is seen by opponents as the most dramatic attempt by a state to control immigration since an Arizona law more than a decade ago that was partially struck down by the Supreme Court. Critics have also said the Texas law could lead to civil rights violations. and ethnic profiling.

Supporters have dismissed those concerns, saying arresting officers must have probable cause, including witnessing the illegal entry or seeing it on video. They also say they expect the law to be applied mostly in border regions, even if it were to apply statewide.


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