Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a bill that would make it a new state crime for entering Texas illegally and gives law enforcement the power to arrest and order migrants to leave the United States.
After more than nine hours of debate, the state House passed two controversial border bills Tuesday. SB3 appropriates $1.5 billion to build a border wall, and SB4 gives law enforcement the power to arrest and grants judges the power to issue orders to remove violators to Mexico.
SB4 was passed without amendments and heads to Abbott’s desk. SB3 passed with an amendment, so it returns to the Texas Senate.
Texas taxpayers would be footing between $20 and $30 million per mile of border wall, according to the floor discussion by lawmakers.
SB3 and SB4 were introduced last week after the Republican governor announced a fourth special legislative session with a focus on border security and education. The Texas Senate suspended its rules to swiftly move SB4 through the chamber in a matter of days.
The ongoing surge of migration at the US-Mexico border has placed immense pressure on local and federal resources. Abbott and the Biden administration have sparred over some of the state’s measures along the southern border in its latest effort to curb illegal immigration.
Democratic House members said the bill oversteps on the federal government’s powers and echoes Arizona’s immigration status provision which opponents dubbed the “show me your papers” law. The law was mostly rejected by the US Supreme Court in 2012 when it upheld that the federal government sets immigration policy and laws.
The Republican author of the bill maintains that the bill is constitutional.
The ACLU of Texas condemned the passage of the border bills and called it “some of the most radical anti-immigrant bills ever passed by any state” and threatened to sue Abbott if he signs SB4.
“Texans across the state have resoundingly opposed these bills from the beginning and we’re not backing down. If Gov. Abbott signs S.B. 4 (88-4) into law, we will sue,” Oni K. Blair, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement Tuesday.
At least one Texas Republican is also concerned about the constitutionality of the bill.
Texas state Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican and author of the previous version of SB4, expressed his opposition to the bill on the floor of the Senate last week. He said Texas was setting a “terrible precedent” by “invalidating our obedience and faithfulness to our Constitution” – which specifies that “all power and responsibility for immigration is delegated to the federal government.”