Monday, April 22, 2024

Judge Blocks Texas Law that Gives Police Broad Powers to Arrest Illegal Immigrants

'SB4 threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice...'

(Headline USA) Even as sanctuary-state California moves to deputize illegal immigrants as members of law enforcement, a feckless federal judge is preventing law enforcement in Texas from arresting illegal immigrants for violating immigration law.

District Judge David Ezra on Thursday blocked a new Texas law that would give police broad powers to arrest migrants suspected of illegally entering the U.S., dealing a victory to the Biden administration with a broad rejection of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s immigration enforcement effort.

Ezra’s preliminary injunction pausing a law that was set to take effect March 5 came as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump—both the presumptive nominees for their respective parties’ 2024 presidential tickets—were visiting Texas’s southern border to discuss immigration.

The state attorney general’s office immediately appealed the ruling, according to a statement Thursday.

The ruling rebuked Texas’s immigration enforcement effort on multiple fronts, brushing off claims by Republicans about an ongoing “invasion” along the southern border due to record-high illegal crossings.

Ezra, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, also said the law violated the Constitution’s supremacy clause, conflicted with federal immigration law, and could hamper U.S. foreign relations and treaty obligations.

Texas officials had argued, however, that the dereliction of duty by the Biden administration to uphold the federal law empowered the states to do so under the 10th Amendment, as well as other laws pertaining to foreign invasions and acts of terrorism.

It was the second time in six months that Ezra has stopped one of Abbott’s border-enforcement efforts, having also ruled against a floating barrier Texas erected in the Rio Grande.

Allowing Texas to “permanently supersede federal directives” due to a so-called invasion would “amount to nullification of federal law and authority—a notion that is antithetical to the Constitution and has been unequivocally rejected by federal courts since the Civil War,” the judge wrote.

In his decision, Ezra wrote that the Texas law was preempted by a 2010 Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case, adding that the two laws had “striking similarities.”

He also struck down state officials’ claims that large numbers of illegal border crossings constituted an “invasion,” saying calling it such is a novel interpretation of the Constitution’s invasion clause and that allowing the law to stand would be permitting the state to engage in war.

Although some may empathize with Texas officials’ claims regarding the federal government’s handling of immigration policy, it is not an excuse to violate the Constitution, the judge wrote.

In a statement, Abbott blamed the influx of migrants on Biden.

“[W]e will not back down in our fight to protect our state—and our nation,” he wrote,  noting that he believed the case would ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.

“Texas has the right to defend itself because of President Biden’s ongoing failure to fulfill his duty to protect our state from the invasion at our southern border,” he added.

Left-wing activist groups who sued the state claimed that if allowed to stand, the law—Senate Bill 4—could lead to civil rights violations and racial profiling.

“With today’s decision, the court sent a clear message to Texas: S.B. 4 is unconstitutional and criminalizing [b]lack, [b]rown, [i]ndigenous, and immigrant communities will not be tolerated,” said Jennifer Babaie, director of advocacy and legal services with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, in a statement celebrating the decision.

The Biden administration’s lawsuit was one several legal battles between it and Texas over how far the state can go to try to prevent migrants from crossing the border under the current open-border policy.

Under the now-suspended law, state law-enforcement officers could arrest people suspected of entering the country illegally. Once in custody, they could agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the country or face a misdemeanor charge for entering the U.S. illegally.

Migrants who don’t leave after being ordered to do so could be arrested again and charged with a more serious felony.

Texas has been arresting migrants for years under a more limited program based on arrests for criminal trespassing.

At a Feb. 15 hearing, Ezra expressed skepticism as the state pleaded its case, saying he feared the U.S. could become a confederation of states enforcing their own immigration laws. In his ruling, he doubled down on the thought, adding that “SB4 threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice.”

Republicans who back the law have said it would not target immigrants already living in the U.S. because of the two-year statute of limitations on the illegal entry charge and would be enforced only along the state’s border with Mexico.

Other Republican governors have expressed support for Abbott, who has said the federal government is not doing enough to enforce immigration laws.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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