The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Texas and its Republican governor, Greg Abbott, seeking to prevent the implementation of a controversial state immigration law, SB4. This law, passed last year, empowers state police to arrest individuals suspected of crossing the US-Mexico border without authorization. The federal government contends that immigration and border control are federal matters, falling under its jurisdiction, not individual states.
SB4, if enacted, would criminalize crossing the Texas-Mexico border without authorization, classifying it as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. The Justice Department argues that this state law violates the US constitution’s supremacy clause and foreign commerce clause, emphasizing that federal law takes precedence over state laws.
Vanita Gupta, the US associate attorney general, stated, “Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states cannot adopt immigration laws that interfere with the framework enacted by Congress. The Justice Department will continue to fulfill its responsibility to uphold the Constitution and enforce federal law.”
Governor Abbott has not immediately responded to the legal action. On social media, he labeled Texas as “the only government in America trying to stop illegal immigration” and expressed confidence in the legality of the law. In the past, Texas has attempted to invoke the “invasion clause” in its constitution, likening migrants at the border to a public foreign enemy. Civil rights groups criticized this language as “extremely dangerous,” and it remains uncertain if this argument will be upheld in court.
The scheduled implementation date for the new Texas immigration law is March 5, but ongoing legal proceedings could impact its enforcement. SB4 is part of Texas’s broader efforts to enhance border security and address illegal immigration, forming a component of Operation Lone Star, a collaborative initiative between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Military Department.