Texas, Biden admin square off in circuit court over blocked anti-illegal immigration law


Texas on Wednesday defended its anti-illegal immigration law in oral arguments before a federal appeals court panel as the law remains on hold due to a legal challenge from the Biden administration.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the legislation, SB 4, in December, which allows local police to arrest illegal immigrants and for judges to order them deported.

However, the law has been on hold due to a challenge from the Biden administration, which says the law is unconstitutional, hurts international relations and impedes the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law. 

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Razor wire in Eagle Pass's Shelby Park

Texas authorities set up razor wire in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, defying a Biden administration order to end the state’s seizure of the area along the Rio Grande. (Matt Finn)

“[Texas’] efforts, through SB 4, intrude on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate the entry and removal of noncitizens, frustrate the United States’ immigration operations and proceedings, and interfere with U.S. foreign relations,” the Department of Justice said in its initial lawsuit.

Texas has argued that the law is necessary due to the Biden administration’s alleged failure to secure the southern border and enforce immigration law, and on Wednesday it argued before the three-judge panel that the ongoing crisis at the border is unprecedented.

“There’s always been people who cross the border,” Solicitor General Aaron Nielson said. “But before, we talked about hundreds of thousands. Now, we talk about millions. Before, we talked about tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors. Now, we talk about hundreds of thousands. Before, we talked about a few countries. Now, we talk about essentially all countries.”

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He also said that Texas has been offering more assistance and resources, something that the Biden administration has said it needs.

“Texas all along has been doing everything within our power to encourage the federal government to do what Congress has directed and address the border crisis. And the answer that we have received at every turn is ‘we don’t have the resources.’ We get that. We understand that. But here, Texas has come forward with additional resources, saying, ‘Let us protect the border,’” he said.

The DOJ has said that enforcing federal immigration law is the federal government’s job, while representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union presenting arguments cited estimates of more than 80,000 arrests a year if it went into effect.

“No one has disputed that this is going to be a massive new system, if it’s allowed to go into effect,” said Cody Wofsy, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

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The Biden administration has previously pointed to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated parts of an Arizona law because it clashed with the scope of the federal government. However, on Wednesday, at least one judge seemed skeptical about the court’s ability to block the entirety of the Texas law.

“As far as I can tell, never in the history of the nation has the United States achieved what they’ve achieved in this case, which is a facial invalidation of a statute that never went into effect, with no course of action, which is an extraordinary achievement,” said Judge Andrew Oldham, a Trump appointee.

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The court had previously blocked the law from going into effect, but it was then briefly allowed to go into effect by the U.S. Supreme Court before being kicked back down and blocked again by the Fifth Circuit.

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It is one of a number of such measures being passed or moved forward by states across the U.S. Louisiana, Iowa and Tennessee are all states that have bills under consideration that would do either the same or similar to what Texas is seeking to do.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.





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