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Texas border security law paused again by court

State police have been blocked from arresting illegal migrants, hours after the US Supreme Court gave them a green light

Implementation of a new Texas law enabling the state to arrest and expel illegal migrants has again been put on hold, after a federal court ordered it temporarily blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge from President Joe Biden’s administration.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals imposed the latest delay on Tuesday, just hours after the US Supreme Court rejected the Biden administration’s emergency request to halt the enforcement of the Texas law. 

The legal whiplash will temporarily maintain the status quo while Texas Governor Greg Abbott feuds with the White House over the influx of migrants across the border with Mexico. Although border security normally falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Abbott has invoked the state’s constitutional right to self-defense, arguing that Biden’s dereliction of duty has triggered a migrant “invasion.”

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On Wednesday, a three-judge 5th Circuit panel heard arguments from both sides on whether the controversial Texas law should go back into effect while the broader case is still pending. The Biden administration has insisted that only the federal government has jurisdiction over border security.

The new law, known as SB4, makes it a state crime to cross into Texas from Mexico outside legal ports of entry. First-time offenders could be punished with up to six months in jail, while repeat violators could be sentenced to a 20-year term. Judges would have the power to order migrants to return to Mexico or face prosecution if they won’t leave willingly.

SB4 has been part of a broader push by Abbott to help secure his state’s portion of the US-Mexico border. Upon taking office in January 2021, Biden immediately halted the border security initiatives of his predecessor Donald Trump. Since then, the US has seen a record influx of illegal migrants and suspected terrorists, as well as increases in drug trafficking.

READ MORE: 25 US Republican governors back Texas in standoff with Biden

Texas has strung barbed wire along the border and installed floating barriers in the Rio Grande River to help stem the flow of migrant traffic. Abbott has also deployed the National Guard to seize control of a state-owned park, seal off a popular crossing for illegal migrants, and prevent federal officers from removing the installed barriers.

The governor noted on Wednesday that even with SB4 temporarily paused, Texas police have been arresting illegal migrants for other crimes, such as criminal trespass. More than 41,000 such arrests have been made during the state’s $12 billion “Operation Lone Star” crackdown.


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