‘Maybe Texas went too far’ with immigration law, state attorney tells federal court

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By journalsofus.com

Justin Hamel/Reuters

Migrants walk along the US-Mexico border after the Republican-backed Texas law known as SB 4 went into effect on March 19.


An attorney defending Texas’ controversial immigration law told a federal appeals court Wednesday that state lawmakers may have gone “too far” when they passed the law last year.

The law, known as SB4, makes illegal entry into Texas a state crime and allows state judges to order the deportation of immigrants.

In a hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Texas Attorney General Aaron Nielson said that in crafting the law, lawmakers sought to go “up to par” in terms of what Supreme Court Precedent allows states to do.

But Nielson added: “Now, to be fair, maybe Texas went too far.”

Nielson is arguing before a circuit panel that has already put the law on hold while the court further examines the statute. Nielson tried to downplay how broad the law was and argued that it did not interfere with federal authority over immigration.

On Wednesday, Nielson said that under the Texas Attorney General’s interpretation of state law, immigrants subject to deportation orders from state courts would be turned over to federal immigration authorities at border ports and then federal officials would determine whether they should be released. to the United States while awaiting further proceedings.

Chief Circuit Judge Priscilla Richman, a conservative judge who was the key vote in the panel’s 2-1 decision last week that temporarily suspended the law, was skeptical of Nielson’s attempts to limit the state law’s reach. .

“What has the statute achieved?” She asked Nielson.

A Justice Department lawyer, who filed one of the lawsuits challenging the Texas statute, urged the appeals court not to depart from its earlier ruling blocking the law.

“Nothing that occurred this morning provides any basis for departing from the analysis set forth in this Court’s stay opinion,” Justice Department attorney Daniel Tenny told the appeals court on Wednesday.

Judge Andrew Oldham, the only member of the panel who appears willing to defend the law, peppered Tenny with questions that sought to undermine arguments made by the administration and other plaintiffs in opposition to the law.

“Never in the history of the nation has the United States accomplished what it accomplished in this case, which is an apparent invalidation of a statute that never went into effect,” he said at one point. “It’s an extraordinary achievement that the United States has achieved.”

Meanwhile, Nielson told the court that SB 4 was the state’s attempt to enforce federal immigration laws that he said the Biden administration was ignoring.

“Of course, we know that presidents come and go, and that different administrations might enforce federal law differently,” he said, arguing that the law may not be necessary under a different presidential administration.

He went on to say that if the court finds that some aspects of the Texas law are invalid, it should not strike down the entire law but rather “separate” those parts to allow the other provisions to remain on the books.

Wednesday’s hearing was the latest episode in a complicated legal drama surrounding SB 4, which has seen the law go into effect for several hours one day last month after the US Supreme Court allowed its application, only only to have the appeals court block it in an unexpected order later. that night.

The law was initially blocked by a federal judge in late February. The preliminary injunction came in response to lawsuits filed against Texas by the Biden administration, El Paso County and two immigrant advocacy groups.

In last month’s order denying Texas’ request to enforce the law while its appeal of the court order proceeds, Richman said the law likely violated the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent.

Legal experts have said that if the Texas case reaches the high court, it could give the justices a chance to review the 2012 ruling and potentially alter the federal government’s long-standing authority over immigration matters in the United States.

This story was updated with additional details on Wednesday.

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