Court Refreezes Controverial Texas Immigration Law.

Photo: The Texas Department of Public Safety. These state troopers could be doubling up as immigration officers if the Texas SB4 law is approved.
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A appeals court has frozen Texas’s controversial immigration law, known as SB4, one of the toughest of its kind, in a case being closely watched across the US as it could affect other states that want to make their own immigration laws.

The legislation would allow officials in Texas to detain and prosecute anyone they think has entered the country illegally, superseding federal powers.

This law has caused a lot of controversy, because historically immigration enforcement has always been administered by federal, not state, agencies under federal law. It is also the federal government that negotiates treaties and agreements with other countries.

Texas is a state where about 40% of the population are Spanish-speaking immigrants or residents. The state claims it is overwhelmed with illegal immigrants and gets no help from the federal government.

One of the biggest concerns of Texas residents is that many families are of mixed status, comprising legal residents, illegal residents, citizens of the US, and that people who are in the US legally may end up being deported.

In addition, the government of Mexico is not in accord with receiving deportees from Texas under this law.

The Texas law briefly came into force on Tuesday for a few hours during a legal back and forth between courts.

On Wednesday the US appeals court will hear the case.

The SB4 law in Texas was due to come into effect on 5 March, but President Joe Biden’s administration challenged it on the grounds that immigrant detention should remain in their hands.

Migrant arrivals at the southern US border have risen to record highs during his administration, making it a top concern among US voters ahead of November’s presidential election.

That has led Texas to take stronger action on its border with Mexico and if the courts uphold its new law then other US states may follow.

Mexico has criticised the new law as anti-immigrant and has said it will refuse to accept any migrants deported by Texas authorities.

The decision to freeze the law is the latest in a string of judicial rulings deciding its fate.

Under SB4, punishments for illegal entry or re-entry into Texas range up to 20 years in prison. This time would presumably be served in a state prison at the expense of Texas taxpayers.

There are no known reports of any migrants being detained by Texas law enforcement during the few hours the law was briefly in effect.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court rulings over whether SB4 can go ahead.

In January, the Biden administration sued the state of Texas and the following month a district court ruled that SB4 was illegal.

It blocked it from taking effect over concerns it would lead to each US state having its own immigration laws.

Soon after, the New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – the federal appeals court responsible for the area – said the law may take effect as it considered the appeal, unless the Supreme Court intervened.

The Biden administration then filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court to uphold the district court’s freeze while the litigation was under way.

In the meantime, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito placed a hold on the law to give the courts time to decide how it should proceed.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed the measure to take effect while a lower federal appeals court weighed its legality.

Then in a brief order late on Tuesday night, a three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit voted to freeze the ruling as it hears the appeal.

A court session has been scheduled for Wednesday.

Historically, the federal government has created laws and regulations on immigration, even though the US Constitution does not explicitly grant it those powers. Certainly the Department of State of the federal government is the only authority that currently issues green cards, visas, or passports

Republicans often criticise Democratic President Biden’s handling of the US-Mexico border, which opinion polls suggest is a prime concern for voters ahead of November’s White House election.

A Gallup poll released in February suggested that nearly one-third of Americans believe immigration was the single greatest problem the country faced ahead of the government, the economy and inflation.

Source: BBC
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