Jan 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

DOJ sues Texas alleging new immigration law is unconstitutional

The Texas National Guard holds migrants crossing the Rio Grande River on Jan. 2. Photo: David Peinado/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas Wednesday, alleging that its new immigration law is unconstitutional.

The big picture: The law, which set to take effect in March and gives local police authority over immigration enforcement, has faced criticism over its potential to lead to racial profiling.

Catch up quick: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Senate Bill 4 into law last month, authorizing state officials to arrest and seek the deportation of migrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without legal authorization.

  • The law makes 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 also permits a judge to order an undocumented person "to return to the foreign nation from which they entered."

Details: The Justice Department argued in the suit that the Constitution assigns the federal government – rather than individual states – the authority to regulate immigration and manage our international borders.

  • "Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states cannot adopt immigration laws that interfere with the framework enacted by Congress," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
  • The DOJ argued that the new law hinders the federal government's ability to enforce entry and removal measures and interferes "with its conduct of foreign relations."
  • Abbott's office did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: DOJ urges U.S. Supreme Court to let Border Patrol cut Texas' razor wire

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