SB4: Supreme Court again blocks Texas law allowing police to arrest immigrants

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  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
  • BBC News, Washington

Image source, fake images


Polls show Americans are increasingly concerned about immigration and management of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The United States Supreme Court has again blocked the entry into force of a Texas immigration law that President Joe Biden’s administration has called unconstitutional.

SB4 would allow local and state police to arrest those who illegally cross the border from Mexico.

It would be one of the toughest immigration measures in any state in the United States.

A record number of at least 6.3 million migrants have been detained crossing illegally into the United States since Biden took office in 2021.

In Monday’s ruling, the Supreme Court imposed an administrative stay, meaning SB4 cannot be enforced while emergency appeals from the Biden administration and other opponents are resolved.

Justice Samuel Alito’s brief order suggested the court could take additional action. It is the third time that the conservative justice system has suspended SB4.

SB4 would empower state and local police officers to detain and arrest anyone suspected of crossing the border illegally, except at schools, health care facilities and places of worship.

Punishments would range from misdemeanors to felonies and possible imprisonment, or fines of up to $2,000 (£1,570).

Penalties for illegal re-entry into Texas could reach up to 20 years in prison, depending on a person’s criminal and immigration history.

SB4 was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in December. It was initially due to go into effect on March 5, but was repeatedly suspended amid an ongoing lawsuit.

Governor Abbott, a Republican closely tied to former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly argued that SB4 is necessary to reduce migrant crossings and that the Biden administration has not done enough to secure the border.

The law was challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that SB4 conflicted with federal authority to maintain security at the U.S. border.

In late February, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the law, saying it threatened “the fundamental notion that the United States should regulate immigration with a single voice.”

But the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit halted that ruling, prompting the Biden administration to file its emergency request with the nation’s highest court.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday before the court ruling was issued, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the law was necessary because Texas is being “attacked” by immigrants.

“By land, by sea, by air. Literally millions cross the border,” he said. He also referred to immigrants as a “hostile group” and “an organized militia, in essence.”

The Texas House Mexican American Legislative Caucus welcomed Monday’s ruling.

He said “millions of mixed-status Texas families can breathe a sigh of relief.”

Opinion polls show that immigration and the US-Mexico border are a growing concern for US voters ahead of the November 2024 elections.

A Gallup poll released in late February found that nearly 30% of Americans believe immigration is the most important issue facing the country, significantly higher than the government, the economy and inflation.

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