Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas’ SB4, the state’s immigration-enforcement law

The law would have allowed local and state police to arrest a person who allegedly entered the country illegally.

By Julián Aguilar, The Texas NewsroomFebruary 29, 2024 12:17 pm,

From The Texas Newsroom:

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Texas law that would have allowed local police to arrest people suspected of being in the state illegally and created a state deportation force.

Senate Bill 4 was passed in late 2023 as part of a priority package of immigration and border security bills championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and far-right leaders.

But U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled on Thursday that the law is likely unconstitutional because the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration matters.

“Several factors warrant an injunction. First, the Supremacy Clause and Supreme Court precedent affirm that states may not exercise immigration enforcement power except as authorized by the federal government,” Ezra wrote. “Second, SB 4 conflicts with key provisions of federal immigration law, to the detriment of the United States’ foreign relations and treaty obligations.”

The legislation was scheduled to go into effect March 5 but is on hold as the case continues. The state of Texas is expected to appeal to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the legislation could end up reaching the United States Supreme Court.

The measure makes unauthorized entry into Texas from Mexico a misdemeanor for a first offense, with penalties increasing to a felony for subsequent violations. SB 4 also permits a local judge or magistrate to order a person back to Mexico, regardless of their nationality.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights project on behalf of El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and El Paso County. It names Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks as defendants.

A separate lawsuit was later filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the two were consolidated.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately respond to request for comment.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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