The Biden administration issued a caution to Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday, indicating that legal measures would be pursued if the state implements a recently enacted law permitting the apprehension, imprisonment, prosecution, and deportation of individuals entering the country without proper authorization.
In a letter addressed to Governor Abbott, a representative from the Justice Department asserted that the law is unconstitutional and runs counter to the United States’ commitment to processing noncitizens in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Scheduled to take effect on March 5, the legislation known as SB4 or Senate Bill 4 is a component of Texas’s Operation Lone Star.
“SB 4 is preempted and violates the United States Constitution. Accordingly, the United States intends to file suit to enjoin the enforcement of SB 4 unless Texas agrees to refrain from enforcing the law,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton wrote.
Abbott signed SB 4 into law on December 18, criminalizing the unauthorized entry into the United States from Mexico as a state offense. The legislation also grants authority to law enforcement to apprehend individuals believed to have crossed the Rio Grande outside designated entry points.
Individuals apprehended for illegally entering the country would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders could face a more severe second-degree felony charge, with a possible punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
Under SB 4, Texas judges have the discretion to dismiss charges against migrants if they opt for voluntary deportation. Boynton contends that the recent law encroaches upon a domain reserved for the federal government and is therefore preempted.
The Department of Justice official additionally highlights that SB 4 has the potential to result in the incarceration or deportation of migrants with valid asylum claims, exposing them to the risk of persecution or torture in the countries to which they may be sent.
The Biden administration has requested Governor Abbott to provide assurance by January 3 that he will refrain from enforcing the new law. Abbott criticized the warning, alleging that President Biden is undermining America, and shared his disapproval in a social media post along with a link to a report on the administration’s request.
A spokesperson for Governor Abbott informed The Post that Texas is prepared to escalate the legal dispute over the implementation of SB 4 to the Supreme Court, if deemed necessary.
In an effort to manage the influx of migrants into Texas, the governor has taken measures such as transporting new arrivals to designated sanctuary cities, including New York and Chicago. Additionally, he initiated the construction of a floating barrier in the Rio Grande; however, courts have issued orders mandating the removal of the barrier.