In a significant development, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a stern warning to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, cautioning of impending legal action if the state proceeds with legislation empowering officials to expel individuals suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.
The legislation, recently signed into law by Governor Abbott, has drawn criticism from the DOJ, with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton asserting its unconstitutionality. In a letter obtained by Hearst Newspapers, Boynton contends that the new law, set to take effect in March, would disrupt federal immigration enforcement operations and infringe upon the federal government’s jurisdiction.
According to the letter, if Governor Abbott does not confirm the state’s intention to forgo the enforcement of the law by January 3, the DOJ will pursue all necessary legal remedies to prevent Texas from interfering with federal functions.
The legislation, an expansion of Abbott’s border security initiative known as Operation Lone Star, grants Texas law enforcement officers the authority to arrest migrants accused of unlawfully entering the state from Mexico. Additionally, judges are empowered to order their removal, marking a significant departure from established precedent placing immigration enforcement exclusively under federal purview.
Earlier this month, El Paso County, alongside two immigrant rights groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit against the legislation, describing it as “patently illegal.” The Mexican government, which would be required to accept immigrants ordered removed by state officials, has also expressed opposition and threatened countermeasures.
Governor Abbott, confident in the legislation’s constitutionality, has asserted that it can withstand legal scrutiny. He argues that the law is a necessary response to record border crossings during the Biden administration, accusing President Joe Biden of failing to secure the border.
The DOJ’s letter cites the U.S. Constitution, emphasizing that immigration regulation and border control fall within the federal government’s purview. Referring to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, the letter contends that only the federal government possesses the authority to enforce immigration laws. Governor Abbott, however, sees the legislation as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit and potentially overturn that precedent.
As the legal battle looms, the controversy surrounding the Texas immigration law intensifies, raising questions about the balance of power between state and federal authorities in matters of immigration enforcement.