Texas moves to expand police powers over migrant detentions
'Our cries for help in the enforcement of existing federal immigration laws have been ignored by President Biden. We have had enough,' said Republican state Rep. David Spiller, author of the House bill.
Texas is on the verge of granting law enforcement expanded powers to detain migrants and mandate their exit from the U.S., following the state House's recent approval of a pertinent bill.
This development positions Republican Governor Greg Abbott for a possible fresh clash with the Biden administration concerning immigration policies.
The atmosphere was tense in the Texas Capitol as the bill was debated, with Hispanic Democratic representatives spearheading several hours of dissent. The discussions, revolving around racial matters and the proposal's legal standing, continued until the early morning hours before House Republicans ultimately endorsed the bill along party lines.
An similar bill has successfully passed through the Texas Senate. The current focus for Republicans is to reconcile the two versions to formulate a unified bill for Governor Abbott’s consideration, AP Newsreported.
“Our cries for help in the enforcement of existing federal immigration laws have been ignored by President Biden. We have had enough,” said Republican state Rep. David Spiller, author of the House bill.
Two years after Texas began implementing stringent immigration control measures — including transporting migrants out of state, deploying razor wire along the border, and placing water barriers in the Rio Grande — the state is poised to introduce new protocols.
These measures, which would empower police to detain migrants and demand their departure from the U.S., are likely to prompt another round of legal battles, further challenging the state's aggressive stance on immigration enforcement.
Critics argue that granting such extensive authority to all law enforcement officers in Texas could lead to unintended detentions of U.S. citizens. Moreover, they believe it could endanger families with varying immigration statuses during regular activities and dissuade crime victims from seeking assistance from the police due to fear.
A legislator captured and subsequently shared footage of a peer vehemently criticizing Republicans during a confidential meeting on the Texas House floor.
“Y’all don’t understand the (expletive) you do hurts our community,” Democrat state Rep. Armando Walle is seen saying in the video. “It hurts us personally.”
Since 2021, Texas has detained thousands of migrants for criminal trespassing along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the proposed law would significantly broaden the authority of all police officers in Texas, enabling them to escort migrants to border entry points and direct their exit into Mexico.
Immigration regulation is chiefly a federal responsibility, and legal authorities have indicated that Texas' new strategy is at odds with established U.S. legislation.
“The idea that the state would now take up the power to deport people from the United States is truly radical, even more than the idea of the state creating parallel criminal law to federal criminal immigration law,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, co-director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law.
Opponents are drawing parallels between the current proposal and Arizona's 2010 legislation, which mandated that police, in the course of their regular duties, inquire into the immigration status of individuals they believed to be in the country unlawfully.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated essential elements of that Arizona policy.
J. Anna Cabot, who leads the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center, doubts that the Supreme Court, despite its conservative lean, would consider the Texas bill should it be enacted.
“It’s just too cut and dry constitutionally,” Cabot stated.
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