Texas has introduced a new law that criminalizes illegal entry into the state, sparking confusion and apprehension among undocumented migrants and families living along the US-Mexico border. This legislation, known as Senate Bill 4 (SB4), signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, grants local law enforcement the authority to arrest migrants and allows judges to issue deportation orders to Mexico. The impending implementation, set for March, has stirred concerns among immigration advocates and communities, fostering fear of potential racial profiling, detentions, and deportation attempts by state authorities.
At a recent town hall meeting discussing the law, immigration attorney Roberto Quijano expressed uncertainties about its execution. There are widespread concerns regarding racial profiling and racism, voiced by community organizers such as Ramona Casas from the nonprofit Arise Adelante, who fear that such laws pave the way for discriminatory practices and jeopardize families.
Casas anticipates that Latinos in Texas may feel compelled to carry identification documents at all times to evade detention based on suspected undocumented status. Critics draw parallels between SB4 and a past Arizona law that faced Supreme Court challenges for its “Show me your papers” provision. Similarly, opponents argue that the Texas law could be unconstitutional and have filed a lawsuit asserting that it preempts federal law, an authority primarily vested in the federal government.
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and civil rights groups have challenged the law’s constitutionality, contending that immigration enforcement is fundamentally a federal prerogative. While the Biden administration has been urged to intervene, the White House has deferred to the Department of Justice regarding any potential legal action.
Local counties, including El Paso, Harris, and Travis, representing a significant portion of Texas’ population, have appealed to President Biden to halt SB4, citing concerns about its constitutionality and its actual impact on community safety.
This development occurs amid a surge in border crossings, straining resources and prompting calls for stricter enforcement measures. The US Border Patrol processed over 10,500 migrants on a single day, contributing to an overwhelming number of individuals in border custody. Governor Abbott’s move to empower state law enforcement to address border security issues reflects frustration with what he perceives as federal inadequacy in securing the border.