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Texas' New Immigration Law Raises Controversy

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new immigration law on Monday, December 18th, instating that those who illegally enter the state of Texas will be arrested and possibly incarcerated by the local Texas law enforcement. The consequences for breaking this law would be considered a Class B misdemeanor which would include a punishment of up to six months in jail as well as a $2,000 fine. Those who are repeat offenders would likely face a second-degree felony with a punishment of two to twenty years in prison.

This immigration law otherwise known as “SB4,” according to Abbott has implications to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas.” A report from the U.S. Customs Border Protection data has recorded nearly 2.5 million immigrants at the southern border within the year 2023. As per the event in Brownsville, Texas, the formation of this new legislature is said by Gov. Abbott, to fix President Biden’s negligence of immigrants within the country. “Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself.”

SB4 has sparked a reaction from many individuals including immigrant rights organization groups. Many of these groups include Democrats and former immigration judges who believe SB4 is unconstitutional as it has been the sole responsibility of the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Others who have opposed this new immigration law have taken certain measures to block the law from passing such as writing letters to the U.S. Department of Justice and issuing a lawsuit against the state of Texas. Joaquin Castro, a Democratic member of Congress, along with Nanette Diaz Barragán, issued a letter addressed to the U.S. Department of Justice indicating this new immigration law is the “most extreme anti-immigrant state bill in the United States…when it goes into effect will likely result in racial profiling, significant due process violations, and unlawful arrests of citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others.”

Joaquin Castro continues the letter by raising past moments in history that resemble SB4, which is “Operation Wetback,” this occurred during the 1950s when Border Patrol agents and local officials would use military-style tactics to remove Mexican immigrants, even those who lawfully entered the U.S. or those who were U.S. citizens. Another more modern take on SB4 was legislature passed by the state of Arizona in 2012 (Senate Bill 1070), which made it a crime for legal immigrants not to carry their immigration papers and required police officers to investigate the immigration status of any person in their vicinity. This law was blocked by lower courts in Arizona, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal government to remain as the enforcer of immigration law rather than state and local government.

As far as efforts made on Gov. Abbott’s behalf, SB4 is not the only measure he has taken to ensure the ‘safety of Texas borders,’ he has also directed the National Guard and state troopers to push back migrants with razor wire, floating barriers, and trespassing arrests. SB4 is set to take effect in March 2024, however, this could change on account of the measures in place to block the law from becoming part of legislation.

The Arlington, Texas police department has issued statements regarding SB4 and has stated “Immigration remains a federal issue and we believe our federal partners continue to be best equipped and trained to handle it. The Arlington Police Department is focused on reducing crime, disrupting gun violence, and promoting safety in our city while engaging with community members and forging lasting relationships with them.”

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