Judge blocks Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants who illegally enter US

Migrants wait in line adjacent to the border fence on May 10 under the watch of the Texas National Guard to enter into El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge on Thursday blocked a new Texas law that would give police broad powers to arrest migrants suspected of illegally entering the U.S., dealing a victory to the Biden administration with a broad rejection of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s immigration enforcement effort.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra’s preliminary injunction pausing a law that was set to take effect March 5 came as President Joe Biden and his likely Republican challenger in November, Donald Trump, were visiting Texas’ southern border to discuss immigration.


The state attorney general’s office immediately appealed the ruling, according to a statement Thursday.

The ruling rebuked Texas’ immigration enforcement effort on multiple fronts, brushing off claims by Republicans about an ongoing “invasion” along the southern border due to record-high illegal crossings. Ezra also said the law violates the Constitution’s supremacy clause, conflicts with federal immigration law, and could hamper U.S. foreign relations and treaty obligations.

It is the second time in six months that Ezra has stopped one of Abbott’s border escalations, having also ruled against a floating barrier Texas erected in the Rio Grande.

Allowing Texas to “permanently supersede federal directives” due to a so-called invasion would “amount to nullification of federal law and authority — a notion that is antithetical to the Constitution and has been unequivocally rejected by federal courts since the Civil War,” the judge wrote.

Opponents have called the Texas measure the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since a 2010 Arizona law that opponents derided as the “show me your papers” bill. The U.S. Supreme Court partially struck down the Arizona law, but some Texas Republicans want that ruling to get a second look.

In his decision, Ezra wrote that the Texas law was preempted by the decision in the Arizona case, adding that the two laws had “striking similarities.” He also struck down state officials’ claims that large numbers of illegal border crossings constitute an “invasion,” saying calling it such is a novel interpretation of the Constitution’s invasion clause and that allowing the law to stand would be permitting the state to engage in war.

Although some may empathize with Texas officials’ claims regarding the federal government’s handling of immigration policy, it is not an excuse to violate the Constitution, the judge wrote.

In a statement, Abbott blamed the influx of migrants on Biden and said “we will not back down in our fight to protect our state — and our nation.”

“Texas has the right to defend itself because of President Biden’s ongoing failure to fulfill his duty to protect our state from the invasion at our southern border,” he wrote, noting that he believes the case will ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.

Civil rights groups who sued the state have argued that if allowed to stand, the law could lead to civil rights violations and racial profiling. They released a joint statement celebrating the decision.

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