UNITED STATES NEWS

A Texas law that would let police arrest migrants for illegal entry is going before a judge

Feb 14, 2024, 10:36 PM

FILE - Migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after they crossed the R...

FILE - Migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after they crossed the Rio Grande and entered the U.S. from Mexico, Oct. 19, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. A federal judge on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, will consider whether Texas can enforce a new law that gives police broad authority to arrest migrants who are accused of entering the U.S. illegally and empowers local judges to order them out of the country. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday will consider whether Texas can enforce a new law that gives police broad authority to arrest migrants who are accused of entering the U.S. illegally and empowers local judges to order them out of the country.

The hearing in Austin is the first legal test of what opponents have called the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since a 2010 Arizona law that was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas’ new law is set to take effect March 5.

The lawsuit by the Justice Department is one of several courtroom battles Texas is fighting with President Joe Biden’s administration over how far the state can go to try to prevent migrants from crossing the border.

It is unclear how quickly U.S. District Judge David Ezra, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, will issue a ruling.

For months, tensions have escalated between the Biden administration and Texas over who can patrol the border and how. The Justice Department has also taken Texas to court over a floating barrier in the Rio Grande and defended the ability of U.S. Border Patrol agents to cut through and remove miles of razor wire that the state has installed along the border.

Republican governors across the U.S. have backed Abbott’s efforts. A heavy presence of Texas National Guard members in the border city of Eagle Pass has denied Border Patrol agents access to a riverfront park. The agents had previously used the park for monitoring and patrols, as well as to process migrants who made it across the Rio Grande to U.S. soil.

The new measure would allow any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people who are suspected of entering the country illegally. Once in custody, they could either agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted on a misdemeanor charge of illegal entry. Migrants who don’t leave could be arrested again and charged with a more serious felony.

Civil rights groups have argued that the new law, known as Senate Bill 4, could lead to civil rights violations and invite racial profiling.

Republicans have defended the law by saying it would likely only be enforced near the U.S-Mexico border. They also contend that it would not be used to target immigrants who have long been settled in the U.S. because the statute of limitation on the misdemeanor charge is two years.

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A Texas law that would let police arrest migrants for illegal entry is going before a judge