Texas to arrest migrants crossing border illegally under new state law

Texas to arrest migrants crossing border illegally under new state law

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed a law allowing state law enforcement to arrest people suspected of crossing the US-Mexico border illegally, giving local officers powers long delegated to the US government in a move likely to trigger legal challenges.

The law, known as SB 4, will take effect in March and create a new state crime for illegal entry or re-entry into Texas, with penalties ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison. Texas magistrate judges will be required to order migrants to return to Mexico, with up to 20-year sentences for those who refuse to comply.

Migrants who cross illegally can already be charged with illegal entry or re-entry under federal laws but Abbott has sharply criticized US President Joe Biden for failing to enforce them.

“Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” Abbott said during a press conference in front of a stretch of state-funded border wall in Brownsville, Texas.

Abbott also signed a bill that would devote $1.5 billion to border wall construction and other operations, funding that comes on top of $5 billion in state funds already appropriated for border enforcement. Tahe Republican governor in late November signed into law a measure to increase penalties for human smuggling.

Record numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the US-Mexico border since Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021. Abbott and other Republicans blame Biden, who is seeking re-election in 2024, for rolling back restrictive policies of former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party nomination.

In the US Congress, Republicans have said they will not approve a foreign aid package that includes military funding for Ukraine and Israel unless it includes strict new US border security provisions, leaving the aid stalled as a group of senators try to find a compromise.