Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill that criminalizes unauthorized entry into the state. This new legislation is a significant step in empowering local authorities to implement measures focused on bolstering border security, in light of the ongoing crisis of illegal immigration.
The signing event marked the enactment of three critical bills associated with border security. During his address, Abbott highlighted, “Four years ago, the United States had the fewest illegal border crossings in decades.” He credited this decrease to four particular policies put into effect by the Trump Administration. However, he took a dig at the current Biden administration for eradicating those policies and falling short in halting illegal immigration. Abbott further said, “President Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself.”
The law, initially proposed by Texas Republicans back in November, authorizes local police to enforce immigration laws by categorizing unauthorized crossing at the Texas-Mexico border as a state misdemeanor. Notably, the law also paves the way for Texas to deport individuals who cross into the state illegally, back to Mexico. This move is viewed as a direct counter to the Biden administration’s existing catch-and-release policy.
According to a statement from the governor’s office, the new law establishes a criminal offense for unauthorized entry into Texas from a foreign nation. It introduces stringent penalties for repeated attempts at illegal reentry, with violators facing up to 20 years in prison. It also lays out a process for ordering an offender to return to their country of origin. Additionally, it offers civil immunity and indemnification to local and state government officials, employees, and contractors against lawsuits resulting from the enforcement of these provisions.
However, the law has triggered controversy. Democrats argue that it is unconstitutional for a state to enforce immigration law, while Republicans contend that the federal government has been neglectful in its duty to secure the border.
Alongside this law, Abbott also signed two additional bills related to border security. These include one that allocates over $1 billion in funding for border security measures, including barriers, and another that enhances penalties for human trafficking.