Appeals court holds controversial Texas immigration law on hold

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A child’s shoe hangs trapped in barbed wire high on the banks of the Rio Grande on January 9, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas.


TO controversial Texas law that allows state officials to arrest and detain people they suspect entered the country illegally will remain blocked while legal challenges are resolved, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

In a 2-1 vote, the court said the law, known as SB 4, will remain blocked while the court considers the broader question of whether it violates the U.S. Constitution. Immigration law enforcement is generally the responsibility of the federal government.

The court’s decision not to allow the law to apply caps a difficult few days in which SB 4 was caught in legal limbo after the Supreme Court allowed it to take effect for a short period, only for the panel to the appeals court postponed it again. on hold hours later.

In the majority opinion authored by Chief Judge Priscilla Richman, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said the law likely conflicts with the Constitution, but said a “lack of funding coupled with a lack of political will” have left a “huge void” in the area of ​​immigration that “Texas, some would nobly and admirably say, seeks to fill.”

“But it is unlikely that Texas can put itself in the place of the national sovereign under our Constitution and our laws,” he wrote, later adding: “Texas’ removal provisions give it powers that are probably reserved for the United States.”

Richman was accompanied by Circuit Judge Irma Carrillo Ramírez, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.

Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, wrote in a lengthy dissent that would have allowed Texas to enforce the law. He said his colleagues’ “willingness to overturn” the law is “extremely worrying.”

“The State will always be helpless: Texas can do nothing because Congress apparently did everything, but the lack of federal enforcement means that Congress’s everything is nothing,” Oldham wrote. “And second, while the dispute before us is entirely hypothetical, the consequences of today’s decision will be very real.”

Signed into law By Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in December, SB 4 makes illegal entry into Texas a state crime and allows state judges to order the deportation of immigrants. U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra had blocked the law in late February before it took effect, holding that the measure “could open the door for each state to pass its own version of immigration laws.”

“SB 4 directly challenges the federal government’s long-standing power to control immigration, naturalization, and removal,” Ezra wrote in the preliminary injunction. “Applied to the field of immigration, the federal government has both a dominant interest and a pervasive regulatory framework that prevents state regulation in the area.”

Texas quickly appealed that decision. The appeals court will hear arguments April 3 on whether the court order should be upheld. Doing so would be a devastating blow to the law.

Opponents of SB 4 include the Biden administration and two immigrant advocacy groups, as well as El Paso County.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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