Updated Dec 18, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs immigration law allowing migrant arrests

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott talking

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a June news conference in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law Monday legislation that authorizes state officials to arrest and seek the deportation of migrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without legal authorization.

Why it matters: The new law that's due to take effect in March is a major escalation in Abbott's pushback against President Biden's border policies and one that critics say is unconstitutional and could lead to racial profiling.

A screenshot of a Twitter photo post of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at the border, with the comment: "Today in Brownsville, I signed three new laws to better protect Texans AND Americans from Biden’s open border policies.   Illegal entry into Texas is now a crime subject to removal or imprisonment.  Texas will also fund new wall construction & increase human smuggling penalties."
Photo: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott/X

State of play: The legislation, known as Senate Bill 4, passed the Republican-led Senate and House last month despite objections from Democrats.

  • The legislation would make it a state misdemeanor to illegally cross the border and a second-degree felony for illegal re-entry, with punishments ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison.
  • It would also permit a judge to order an undocumented person "to return to the foreign nation from which they entered."

What we're watching: SB 4 is likely to face legal challenges.

Between the lines: Legal experts argue it violates long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedent and goes far beyond Arizona's divisive Senate Bill 1070, which Axios' Astrid Galván and Nicole Cobler note the high court partially struck down.

Zoom out: Abbott and other Republican governors have for months been challenging Biden's border policies, bussing thousands of migrants to Democrat-run cities after record numbers arrived amid a global humanitarian crisis.

Go deeper: What Texas spends on busing migrants

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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