Written by Hudson Crozier
Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the law had already gone into effect
What’s happening: Illegally entering Texas from a foreign country is now a state crime under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, taking effect in March. State and local law enforcement will be able to arrest illegal migrants and order their removal from the country. The crime brings up to 180 days in prison, with greater punishments for repeat offenders and those guilty of other crimes.
The pushback: Activists have promised to sue Texas over the new law, saying it usurps federal authority over border security. Others have asked President Joe Biden’s administration to intervene. The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry from Upward News on how it would proceed.
Why it matters: Texas aims to reduce the historic rates of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, no matter the legal challenges. But there are also logistical issues with the new law, so it's unclear what exactly will change about the border crisis.
The big problem: Abbott's law makes it illegal to enter Texas without going through a “lawful port of entry.” The federal government controls all ports of entry, using them to process and release millions of migrants into the U.S.
- What that means: The only people violating Texas law are the “gotaways” who evade border agents completely. Those account for less than half of the roughly 4 million people who have illegally entered the U.S. under Biden.
- Even then: Migrants deported by Texas — taken to a port of entry — could simply ask the Biden administration to let them back into the country.
Mexico’s role: Additionally, an immigration lawyer told the Texas House that Mexico won’t take back non-Mexican migrants without “federal agreements,” according to border officials she spoke to. The Mexican government has condemned Texas’ law as violating the rights of migrants.