Texas, Arizona migrant laws for border are dealt setbacks

2024-03-06 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Measures for state control of border-crossing issues suffered two setbacks this week.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an order Monday to temporarily block a Texas law that would make illegal crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border a state crime starting this Saturday.

In Arizona, Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed a state law Monday passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would allow state law enforcement officers to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally.

The two laws are similar in nature. The Texas law — SB 4 — would make illegal crossing from Mexico a state crime with punishment between six months to up to 20 years for first and repeat offenders. The law would give Texas the power to arrest any undocumented immigrants in the state.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra in Austin, Texas, blocked the state from implementing the law. "If allowed to proceed, SB 4 could open the door to each state passing its own version of immigration laws," Ezra wrote.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then ruled a couple of days later that the law will take effect as scheduled if the Supreme Court didn't take any action before Saturday.

A collation of groups that sued Texas said in a statement: "Make no mistake: SB 4 bypasses federal immigration authority and threatens the integrity of our nation's constitution and laws."

The Justice Department joined the argument and told the Supreme Court that the law would profoundly alter "the status quo that has existed between the United States and the States in the context of immigration for almost 150 years" and would have "significant and immediate adverse effects" on the country's relationship with Mexico and "create chaos" in enforcing federal immigration laws in Texas.

Texas has until March 11 to respond in the Supreme Court.

The Arizona Border Invasion Act would also make illegal border crossing a state crime with a possible prison term of up to six months and would allow state judges to deport migrants.

"This bill does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state, and burdensome for law enforcement personnel and the state judicial system," Hobbs wrote in her veto letter Monday. "Further, this bill presents significant constitutional concerns and would be certain to mire the state in costly and protracted litigation."

"The Legislature did its job to protect our citizens, but Hobbs failed to do hers," Arizona state Senator Janae Shamp, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement Monday. "Vetoing the Arizona Border Invasion Act is a prime example of the chaos Hobbs is unleashing in our state while perpetuating this open border crisis as Biden's accomplice. Arizonans want and deserve safe communities."

Shamp also said that the veto is a slap in the face of law enforcement and victims of border-crossing-related crimes.

Another border-related bill — HB 2843 — is advancing through the Arizona Legislature. It would expand self-defense laws to allow farmers and ranchers to legally shoot migrants who trespass on their property.

Arizona has attempted to make laws regarding migrants in the past. The state passed the law known as the "show me your papers" act in 2010 that required state law enforcement to ask those deemed suspicious of being undocumented to present proof of legal immigration status during routine traffic stops.

Those caught without legal papers would face a misdemeanor crime charge. The law was partially struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.

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