May 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration sues states over immigration laws

Migrants are processed by the U.S. Border Patrol at a new makeshift camp in California.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent processes people who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on May 26 in Jacumba Hot Springs, San Diego. Photo: Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued two more states this month to prevent them from implementing new state laws targeting immigrants.

Why it matters: The lawsuits against Iowa and Oklahoma — in addition to one against Texas — signal that the Biden administration is taking an aggressive stance against states taking immigration matters into their own hands.

Catch up quick: Iowa and Oklahoma joined Texas in passing new state laws that charge undocumented immigrants with either a criminal misdemeanor or a felony for entering the country without authorization.

  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, both Republicans, have said the moves were necessary given a surge of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • The DOJ filed suit against Iowa on May 9 and against Oklahoma on May 21, saying the laws are unconstitutional.
  • The DOJ is also in court against a Texas law passed last year that would allow state authorities to arrest and deport people suspected of entering the country illegally. That law, which critics warn will lead to racial profiling, is on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

What they're saying: "Oklahoma cannot disregard the U.S. Constitution and settled Supreme Court precedent," Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division, said in a statement.

  • Boynton said the same thing about Iowa's law.

The other side: Stitt says Oklahoma was forced to act since the "Biden administration refuses to do its job to secure our borders."

  • That was echoed in a statement from Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird: "When Biden fails to do his job and secure our border, states have to take matters into their own hands."

Yes, but: Some local law enforcement groups warn that any new state immigration laws would make it harder for police to fight crime.

  • "This law has the potential to destroy the connections and relationships we have built within our local immigrant communities and set us back for many years to come," the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and the Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders said in a joint statement.

The intrigue: Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a new law that requires law enforcement agencies in Georgia to notify federal authorities when undocumented immigrants are arrested.

  • The law also requires local and state police to identify, arrest and detain people suspected of being undocumented.

What we're watching: The Texas case is likely to make it to the Supreme Court.

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