Federal appeals court hears Texas immigration law case | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Federal appeals court hears Texas immigration law case

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. The Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay, File

Federal appeals court hears Texas immigration law case

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday heard arguments for and against Senate Bill 4, a law that makes illegal immigration into Texas a state crime.

Is the law currently in effect? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in December, but the U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit to block SB 4 from taking effect. A federal judge temporarily halted enforcement of the law in February. Still, in a 6-3 ruling last month, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to take effect while lower court proceedings played out. Hours later, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals placed another temporary hold on the law.

What were the arguments for the law? Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson called the situation at the U.S. southern border unprecedented both in terms of the number of illegal migrants crossing the border as well as the level of sophistication employed to transport them without detection by U.S. law enforcement. He said drug cartels not only created a supply chain to move people across the border but also adapted that supply chain to transport dangerous narcotics. He also said when Texas authorities pressed the federal government to secure the border, it said it lacked adequate resources to do so.

Nielson said the authors of SB 4 wrote the legislation to empower Texas law enforcement officials with as much authority to enforce the border as the U.S. Supreme Court has granted states through precedent. He said, “Maybe Texas went too far,” adding that state authorities can only return illegal migrants to the port of entry. He said Texas authorities were not claiming the right to deport people across the border and said it would be the federal government’s job to process them and return them to Mexico.

What were the arguments against the law? U.S. Department of Justice attorney Daniel Tenny took issue with Nielson’s characterization of SB 4, arguing that it does empower Texas authorities to return illegal migrants to Mexico, and that constitutes an extreme intrusion on the federal government’s authority. One of the judges asked Tenny why it would be inappropriate for Texas law enforcement to carry out the federal government’s wishes to deport an illegal migrant. Tenny argued that immigration enforcement is a federal power, so Texas does not have the authority to pass a law making illegal border crossing a state crime.

It’s unclear when the three-judge panel will issue a ruling.

Dig deeper: Listen to attorney Daniel Suhr’s analysis of Texas’ border enforcement policies on The WORLD and Everything in It podcast.

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

An actual newsletter worth subscribing to instead of just a collection of links. —Adam

Sign up to receive The Sift email newsletter each weekday morning for the latest headlines from WORLD’s breaking news team.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...