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DoJ sues Texas after warning over new anti-immigration law

The filing is the latest immigration court battle launched by the federal government against the state

Michelle Del Rey
Thursday 04 January 2024 01:15 GMT
Children in custody inside Texas migrant centre

The US Department of Justice is suing the state of Texas over what it says is a “clearly unconstitutional” law that would give state judges the ability to deport migrants from the country.

Last week, the DoJ threatened to sue Republican Gov Greg Abbott’s administration if it began enforcing the legislation — Senate Bill 4 —  which was signed by the governor last month. It’s set to take effect in March.

The law will additionally give local law enforcement officials the ability to arrest migrants crossing the southern border into the US and implement two new crimes, a misdemeanour and a felony for those caught entering the US.

Repeat offences would be punishable by up to two years in prison.

Advocates have decried the law’s implementation.

“Governor Abbott’s efforts to circumvent the federal immigration system and deny people the right to due process is not only unconstitutional, but also dangerously prone to error,” Anand Balakirshnan, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project said.

The DoJ argues that the Texas law interferes with current provisions stating that the federal government has the authority to enforce entry and removal statutes. Separately, the new law interferes with its conduct on foreign relations.

In Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court previously ruled that decisions regarding removal of noncitizens must be made with “one voice,” a DoJ press release noted.

“Texas cannot run its own immigration system”, the complaint states.

In a written statement, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said, “We have brought this action to ensure that Texas adheres to the framework adopted by Congress and the Constitution for regulation of immigration.”

Mr Abbott, the state of Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety and Steven C McCraw, the director of the state’s DPS, are named as defendants in the suit.

Last week, Mr Abbott announced his intentions to continue defending the new law.

“The Biden administration not only refuses to enforce current US immigration laws, they now want to stop Texas from enforcing laws against illegal immigrants,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“I’ve never seen such hostility to the rule of law in America. Biden is destroying America. Texas is trying to save it.”

Earlier this year, the federal government sued Mr Abbott for placing a floating buoy barrier in the Rio Grande River, which separates Texas and Mexico. The DoJ said that the governor did not have jurisdiction over the borderland.

A ruling on that suit has not yet been made.

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