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Appeals court extends block on Texas’s controversial immigration law to arrest migrants at border

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling blocking Texas from implementing a controversial immigration law that would allow law enforcement officials to arrest migrants at the US southern border.

On Tuesday evening, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling declaring that Texas may not enforce its law, for now, because it conflicts with federal immigration laws.

“Regardless of the wisdom of the Executive’s actions and inactions, it is for the Executive to decide whether, and if so, how to pursue noncitizens illegally present in the United States,” judges wrote in the majority opinion

The law Texas was trying to implement is known as SB4 and would make it a crime for people to cross the border illegally and give law enforcement the authority to make arrests and charges for those they believe crossed illegally.

Police could charge people with a Class B misdemeanour, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Second offenders could face second-degree felony charges and up to 20 years in prison.

The ruling comes after the Biden administration asked a federal district court to pause the law while litigation was ongoing. The lower court complied, which Texas appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court.

A Texas National Guard soldier observes as thousands of immigrants walk towards a U.S. Border Patrol transit center on December 19, 2023 (Getty Images)
A Texas National Guard soldier observes as thousands of immigrants walk towards a U.S. Border Patrol transit center on December 19, 2023 (Getty Images)

Texas may appeal the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision to the US Supreme Court or wait until oral arguments are heard on April 3. But already, SB4 has created a messy trail of litigation through several federal court systems.

Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott passed SB4 as part of a growing trend of aggressive anti-immigration to curtail the number of migrants passing over the US-Mexico border.

After the law was passed, the Biden administration quickly moved to ask the district court to intervene in its implementation. They argued that Texas overstepped the federal government by creating a strict immigration law, thus violating the precedent of Arizona v United States.

After the law was passed, the Biden administration quickly moved to ask the district court to intervene in its implementation. They argued that Texas overstepped the federal government by creating a strict immigration law, thus violating the precedent of Arizona v United States.

The district court moved to strike the law, but that was appealed to the Fifth Circuit. During that time, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene and issued a stay in the law while lower courts were still making a decision. The Supreme Court, at first, issued a stay in the law while lower courts were still making a decision. However, the court ultimately stepped back from intervening, saying the Fifth Circuit needed to make a decision first.