Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday, December 18th, enacted a groundbreaking law, SB4, granting state law enforcement the authority to detain individuals suspected of illegally entering the United States.
During the signing ceremony, Governor Abbott stated the bill was to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas.”
The law, set to take effect in March, classifies illegal entry into Texas as a state offense.
Offenders, once arrested, can either comply with a judge’s deportation order or face legal proceedings, potentially leading to imprisonment or a fine of up to $2,000.
Repeat offenders face felony charges.
Governor Abbott, at the law’s signing in Brownsville, emphasized the increased powers for law enforcement, stating, “[Law enforcement officers] are seeing with their own eyes people who are violating the law and now they’re going to have the ability to arrest them, prosecute them, make them subject to jail, make them subject to being sent back and make them subject to even greater penalties if they dare to come into Texas a second time.”
Despite its imminent implementation, SB4 is anticipated to encounter legal challenges, as immigration enforcement typically falls under federal jurisdiction.
The introduction of the law aligns with a notable increase in migrant encounters along the Texas border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported around 167,000 encounters by December 17, which rose from the 130,000 encounters documented during the first 17 days of November.
Governor Abbott, known to be critical of the Biden administration, has criticized the government’s handling of the border. He stated that the lack of action on behalf of the federal government has established the need for state intervention.
Since the beginning of the migrant crisis, Texas has reportedly transported over 65,000 migrants to various cities across the United States.
The law signed by Governor Abbott is similar to a law Arizona attempted to pass in 2010, which similarly faced criticism.
Mexico publicly rejected Abbott’s law, stating it contradicts “bilateral and international agreements.”
Mexico’s foreign relations department, in a statement, noted, “The Mexican government categorically rejects any measure that would allow local or state authorities to detain or deport Mexicans or other nationalities to Mexican soil.”
Mexico accepts deportations of its citizens. Under the new Texas law, any migrants who enter the state illegally, regardless of nationality, would be arrested and deported to Mexico, which is a point of contention for Mexico.
The White House, when discussing the new Texas law, called it “extreme,” arguing it undermines community safety in Texas.
A White House spokesperson stated, “Generally speaking, the federal government, not individual states, is charged with determining how and when to remove noncitizens for violating immigration laws.”