El Paso County has joined civil rights groups in a lawsuit against the State of Texas. Legal experts expect the federal government will also sue over SB 4.

SAN ANTONIO — Texas is once again at the forefront of the immigration debate.

On Tuesday, officials said an estimated 10,000 people crossed the southern border into Eagle Pass in just one day. Texas Governor Greg Abbott claims Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law on Monday, is meant to prevent the migrant surge. However, critics argue it promotes racial profiling by allowing police to stop, arrest and jail migrants.

“This new law is an attempt by the State of Texas to wrestle authority over immigration law from the federal government,” said Gerardo Menchaca, an immigration attorney in San Antonio. “Gov. Abbott thinks he is President Abbott, and he thinks Texas is a nation. But it’s not, it’s a state within a nation. It is very clear in the law that immigration falls under federal authority.”

‘Tidal wave of illegal entry’

SB 4 is set to take effect on March 5. It makes illegal crossing a state crime. At the border on Monday, Gov. Abbott said he hopes the bill “stops the tidal wave of illegal entry” into Texas.

“Four years ago, the United States had the fewest illegal border crossings in decades,” said Gov. Abbott in a press release. “It was because of four policies put in place by the Trump Administration that led to such a low number of illegal crossings. President Biden has eliminated all of those policies and done nothing to halt illegal immigration. President Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself.”

The new legislation also allows local judges to order deportations.

This law won’t work because Mexico is not required to take anyone that Texas deports,” Menchaca said.

‘Violation of civil rights’

Lydia Guzman, who is with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), says the legislation is ripe for abuse.

“This new law will open the door to the racial profiling of Texans who look like me, sound like me, have my last name,” said Guzman. “The reason for [a traffic] stop could be because a police officer happens to notice the color of their skin, happens to notice perhaps the music they are listening to, happens to see them speaking Spanish. That doesn’t mean that someone lacks legal status.”

The law will be enforceable anywhere in Texas, not just border communities. Guzman says it’s a violation of civil rights and human rights.

“Officers in the streets do not have the federal training to recognize the different immigration identifications that give people the authorizations to be here legally,” she said.

‘Do not anticipate changes to law enforcement practices’ 

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) released the following statement in response to SB 4.

The San Antonio Police Department) (SAPD) also responded to our request for comment with the following statement.

El Paso County is joining civil rights groups suing the State of Texas. The lawsuit, which was filed in Austin on Tuesday, claims SB 4 violates the constitutional rights of citizens and immigrants, and unlawfully assumes the authority of the federal government.

Menchaca expects the U.S. Department of Justice will sue next.

“Usually, judges will grant an injunction to keep it from going into effect until the lawsuit is settled,” said Menchaca. “Other times, the courts rush to settle it before the law is supposed to take effect. So, I don’t expect that this law is going to be around for much longer.”


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