A new lawsuit is challenging a controversial border bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday. Senate Bill 4 would make undocumented immigration a state crime, allowing Texas police to arrest suspected migrants.

“We’re suing to block one of the most extreme anti-immigrant bills in the country,” said Adriana Pinon, legal director for the ACLU of Texas.

Less than 24 hours after SB 4 was signed, to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas”, according to Abbott, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, Texas Civil Rights Project and others are suing to try to stop it from taking effect.

“It is not in line with the values of Texas,” said Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways.

The Austin-based immigrant advocacy group American Gateways is among the plaintiffs.

“I don’t think it’s just immigrant communities that are going to be targeted. I think it’s communities of color and people who may profile as immigrants based on the color of their skin, unfortunately,” said Yang.

SB4, which is set to take effect in March, allows Texas police to arrest people who they think crossed the border illegally. Migrants could face a $2,000 fine and six months in jail. Repeat offenders could get up to 20 years in prison. The law also enables judges to send migrants back.

“When they see someone crossing over the border, as the National Guard see, as the Texas Department of Public Safety see, they are not profiling, they are seeing someone violating the law, and now they’re going to have the ability to arrest them and prosecute them,” said Abbott on Monday.

Abbott believes that will deter many from crossing in the first place.

But the 20-page lawsuit claims “immigration is a quintessentially federal authority” and that “SB4 is patently illegal”.

“We think that the law isn’t constitutional, and we hope that the lawsuit will be able to challenge its constitutionality,” said Yang.


Abbott argues the constitution specifically allows states to protect their borders when the federal government fails to do so.

“Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” said Abbott.

But some constitutional law experts believe the lawsuit has teeth.

“It rubs directly up against and conflicts with the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. The supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution asserts that if a state law conflicts with a federal law, then the state law is unconstitutional,” said Dr. Eddy Carder, a constitutional law professor at Prairie View A&M University.

In response to the lawsuit, Gov. Abbott said in a statement late Tuesday:

“President Biden has repeatedly refused to enforce federal immigration laws already on the books and do his job to secure the border. In his absence, Texas has the constitutional authority to secure our border through historic laws like SB 4. Texas will take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to protect Texans from President Biden’s dangerous open border policies.”

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