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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has been actively pushing boundaries on the U.S.- Mexico border for the past two years. This includes actions such as transporting  migrants across America, imprisoning a significant number of individuals for  trespassing, and installing razor wire along the Rio Grande. 

Now, in a recent challenge to the federal government’s authority over immigration,  Texas lawmakers have formally approved a bill that grants police the authority to  apprehend migrants who enter the country unlawfully. Moreover, local judges will  possess the ability to mandate the departure of these individuals from the country.  

If this bill is allowed to take effect, it will become one of the strictest immigration  laws in the nation. Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign it. The  Mexican government has expressed concerns about potential family separations  and racial profiling, criticizing the measure. Furthermore, the bill represents an  escalation of Operation Lone Star, the governor’s border scheme, which has been  ongoing for nearly three years and costs $10 billion. The state has attempted to use  criminal trespassing charges to round up migrants. Prior to the passing of SB 4 in  the House on Tuesday evening, another measure for an additional $1.5 billion was  also passed, funding Abbott’s spending spree which includes costly border walls,  dangerous razor wire, and possibly lethal river buoys.  

The Texas Legislature has consistently attempted to influence immigration policy  with their own questionable approaches, disregarding the potential harm and  consequences faced by individuals who may be impacted, imprisoned, or forcibly  removed. 

“The Texas Legislature has tried year after year to co-opt immigration policy with  its own outlandish schemes, not caring who they may harm, imprison, or forcibly  remove in the process,” said Roberto Lopez, an advocacy manager at the Texas 

Civil Rights Project, in a statement. “People deserve to be welcomed with dignity  and respect, not profiling and arrest.” 

According to Priscilla Olivarez, a Policy Attorney and Strategist for the Immigrant  Legal Resource Center, it is necessary for all Texans, regardless of their legal  status, to express deep concern about this legislation and to urge their elected  representatives to vote against it. She argues that the ambiguous language in the  bill gives peace officers broad discretion to initiate unwarranted stops solely based  on suspicion of someone crossing into Texas from Mexico. As a result, anyone  perceived as having crossed the border may be detained and questioned. Olivarez  also points out that this measure will disproportionately affect individuals of  Brown and Black ethnicities. Additionally, the lack of specific definition for a  peace officer suggests that individuals assumed to have law enforcement authority  may potentially be able to stop and detain others. 

In federal immigration proceedings, individuals have a legal entitlement to due  process and the opportunity to present evidence in support of their defense against  deportation. This can include establishing legal immigration status, American  citizenship, or eligibility for humanitarian protection. Regrettably, the current  version of HB 4 does not include these protective measures. Instead, individuals  suspected of illegal entry may be deprived of their fundamental rights under both  federal immigration law and Texas criminal law. The bill proposes that they can be  swiftly deported to Mexico without the chance to seek legal representation. 

There is supplementary legislation pertaining to the border that will be deliberated  upon by state lawmakers in the upcoming week. On Monday, budget planners in  the Texas House will assemble to ponder over the allocation of an additional $1.5  billion for the establishment of a barrier along the state’s border with Mexico.  Governor Abbott has integrated this endeavor as part of Operation Lone Star and  has emphasized Texas as the sole state endeavoring its own wall construction  through recent posts on social media. 

During the regular session of the Texas Legislature, which concluded in May,  legislators assigned over $5 billion for border security. If sanctioned, the most  recent appropriation would be transferred to the governor’s office and provide  funding for two years of construction. 

The current special legislative session began on October 9th and can extend up to  30 days, although the governor has the authority to call lawmakers back for  subsequent sessions.

Reference: https://www.keranews.org/texas-news/2023-10-19/texas lawmakers-to-consider-legislation-allowing-state-and-local-police-to-deport migrants 

Submitted by : Jagriti Tiwari , A first year law student at legal Vidya

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