DOJ Takes Aim At Abbott Over Border Security

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott could be the subject of a Department of Justice lawsuit if Texas pushes forward and implements new legislation that allows local law enforcement agencies to send people out of the country who have been suspected of entering illegally.

Senate Bill 4 in Texas gives local and state law enforcement agencies the authority to arrest migrants who they believe came into America illegally. The state Legislature passed the bill back in November, as part of a special session that Abbott called.

The governor then signed the bill into law on December 18. It’s set to go into effect on March 5.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the DOJ sent Abbott a letter regarding the law. They wrote that if Abbott doesn’t confirm by January 3 that Texas won’t enforce the bill, “the United States will pursue all appropriate legal remedies to ensure that Texas does not interfere with the functions of the federal government.”

The new bill is part of what is being called Operation Lone Star. It’s a package of policies to implement stricter border security measures in Texas, in lieu of the federal government doing anything about the migrant crisis.

The Biden administration, though, claims that it has the sole authority over enforcing immigration policies.

In July, the DOJ sued Texas over the buoys that the state put in the Rio Grande River as a deterrent to migrants from coming into the U.S. illegally.

A preliminary injunction was issued by a U.S. District Court judge back in August that halted the removal of the buoys, though the federal government has appealed that ruling.

A December 19 ruling prohibits agents from Border Patrol from cutting razor wire that Texas put up along 29 miles of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, until the case can proceed.

In the letter that the DOJ sent to Texas this week, they cited the Supreme Court ruling in Arizona v. United States from 2012. That case struck down some key parts of a law that Arizona passed to try to deter illegal immigration in their state. However, the high court let a provision stand that allowed law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status while they were enforcing other state laws.

In the majority opinion in that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

“The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration. Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

That’s what the DOJ’s letter touched upon. It read, in part:

“Indeed, the Supreme Court has confirmed that ‘the removal process’ must be ‘entrusted to the discretion of the Federal Government’ because a ‘decision on removability’ touches ‘on foreign relations and must be made with one voice.’”

The Texas Civil Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas have both already challenged the new Texas law, filing a lawsuit December 19 that claims it’s unconstitutional.