Texas is edging closer to conferring the power to law enforcement to detain and remove immigrants from the United States, as State Republicans have greenlit a new bill on Thursday.
This proposed legislation, formally identified as House Bill 4, seeks to grant law enforcement significantly augmented authority to apprehend and expel undocumented migrants, a role that had been exclusively held by the federal government in the past.
Furthermore, it would empower all Texas law enforcement officers to detain migrants who refuse to leave the United States.
A similar bill has already received approval from the Texas Senate, which means that Republicans must now harmonize the different versions of the legislation before sending it to Governor Greg Abbott, who is expected to give it his approval. State Representative David Spiller, a Republican and the author of the House bill, underscored the importance of the legislation in dealing with the continued influx of migrants crossing the border in recent years in the Lone Star State.
El Paso has faced severe challenges, particularly when last month, border city authorities stated that they had reached a critical juncture, detaining over 2,000 migrants daily. Spiller promoted his legislation as a compassionate, rational, and effective method for addressing immigration issues in Texas.
On the other hand, State Democrats criticized the legislation, labeling it as an excessive exercise of authority that might inadvertently lead to the apprehension of American citizens and exacerbate the already strained relationship between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
Ana Gonzales, representing the Texas AFL-CIO labor organization, pointed out that the bill could harm Texas’ labor force and economy, potentially compelling undocumented workers to go into hiding to evade arrest.
The Texas bill symbolizes the state’s most recent effort to address the problem of unauthorized border crossings, expanding on a year that saw the implementation of controversial strategies. These strategies involved relocating a significant volume of migrants to cities under Democratic leadership, reinforcing the border with additional razor wire, and introducing water barriers in the Rio Grande.
If the bill is approved and receives Governor Abbott’s endorsement, it is expected to encounter legal disputes, as adversaries contend that it constitutes a blatant breach of U.S. law, given that the authority for deportation is exclusively vested in the federal government.
In addition to the legislation aimed at expanding police authority, the Texas House also passed measures to allocate over $1 billion for the construction of border barriers and to enhance penalties for human trafficking, with the aim of reducing the smuggling of migrants.