Border Crisis

Texas Immigration Law on Hold Again After Late-Night Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing Texas SB4 Immigration Law to go into effect on Tuesday was short-lived. Within hours of the court’s decision to move the matter back into the hands of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a three-member panel on the New Orleans-based court blocked the law from taking effect in a 2-1 vote. The appellate court then scheduled oral arguments on the matter for Wednesday.

Under Texas SB4, local and state law enforcement would be allowed to arrest, detain, and prosecute migrants suspected of illegally entering the state from Mexico. The law would also allow for removing a migrant convicted of the offense as part of a sentencing agreement. Migrants convicted of a second offense of illegally entering the state face felony charges in addition to removal.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed the current litigation against the SB4 on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and the County of El Paso. The lawsuit argues that SB4 violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution in that the enforcement of immigration law is exclusively a federal matter.

The federal court wrangling on the constitutionality of Texas’ new immigration law has seen the law blocked, reinstated, and paused by the Supreme Court on three occasions. Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court moved the matter back to the lower appeals court, where the latest ruling once again puts enforcement of the controversial law on hold.

In late February, Austin’s Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra halted the implementation of Senate Bill 4, which was to take effect on March 5, citing the federal government’s supremacy over the enforcement of immigration laws.

In his decision, Ezra stated, “For the past century, Texas has relied on its expansive police powers afforded to it under the Constitution to regulate crime within its borders. Texas may continue to do so, but it cannot regulate the federal field of unlawful entry and removal.”

The law will likely find its way back to the country’s highest court. Any decision by the Fifth Circuit after Wednesday’s scheduled arguments will surely prompt a quick appeal sending the ACLU challenge up for action by the Supreme Court.

The battle may be an uphill one for the law. In 2010, a similar immigration law signed by then Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would have made illegal presence by a migrant and unlawful employment by a migrant in the state a misdemeanor crime. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled Arizona’s SB 1070 infringed upon the federal government’s supremacy to regulate and enforce immigration laws.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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