Texas Immigration Law Embroiled In Legal Tug-of-War

The Supreme Court entered an order on Tuesday that allowed the State of Texas to enforce Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4), a law designed to tackle illegal immigration by granting state law enforcement the authority to arrest individuals suspected of entering the United States unlawfully. The order was temporary, and expressly directed that the appeal of the case would continue as normal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for the time being.

The Biden administration filed the lawsuit earlier this year to obstruct the implementation of S.B. 4, initially set to take effect March 5. The law stands as Texas’s response to escalating illegal border crossings in the face of federal inaction and the consequent threats posed by Mexican drug cartels and human trafficking activities.

However, this victory for Texas was ephemeral. Within hours, the Fifth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision that reinstated the prohibition against the law’s enactment.

The Biden administration argues that the law usurps federal authority on immigration matters, branding it “flatly inconsistent” with established federal prerogatives. In contrast, Texas has staunchly defended its legislation, asserting its right to safeguard its borders against the invasion of illegal migrants from hostile nations.

Texas also argued that the stay should remain in place due to the high court’s decision to fast-track the Biden administration’s appeal. The case has been set for oral arguments on April 3 before the Fifth Circuit court.

While the administration argues that immigration law is the sole province of the federal government, Texas argues that state authority is only superseded when Congress has expressed a clear intention for that to be the case. The Lone Star State further contends that existing federal law enacted by Congress and relevant Supreme Court precedents do not declare any exclusive jurisdiction for the federal government regarding illegal migration.

Texas says its new law “mirrors rather than conflicts with federal law” in that it “allows Texas to help enforce federal immigration laws.” The state also argues the Constitution expressly reserves the power of self-defense to state governments when they are “actually invaded.”

Texas points to the long history of the state using its authority to defend itself, including the use of military force to respond to “marauders” in the 19th century when they crossed from Mexico to commit crimes. The new law applies in the same way, permitting Texas to “fight back against cartels that ‘have increasingly acquired a transnational dimension’ and operate as a ‘potent paramilitary force.’”

As the nation awaits the federal courts to decide whether the Biden administration’s appeal of the Texas law is valid, the back-and-forth action highlights the complex nature of immigration law. It reflects the broader ideological divisions that permeate America’s political landscape.