The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the State of Texas over a controversial new law empowering law enforcement to arrest and deport migrants who entered the country illegally.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill, Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), into law in December as part of a package of border security legislation aimed at cracking down on human smuggling and illegal border crossings.
SB 4 created new criminal offenses for illegal entry and reentry into Texas from a foreign nation, establishing penalties for offenders of up to 20 years in prison.
The law also provides state judges with the ability to order removal of illegal aliens from the U.S., and grants civil immunity to local and state law enforcement, government officials, and contractors for lawsuits resulting from the enforcement of SB 4’s provisions.
Gov. Abbott said at the bill signing ceremony that President Joe Biden’s “deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself” on the U.S.-Mexico border as record numbers of migrants continue pouring into the country.
Biden’s Justice Department is suing Texas and co-defendants Gov. Abbott, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw, alleging that SB 4 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and Foreign Commerce Clause.
“SB 4 is clearly unconstitutional,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a Wednesday press release. “Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states cannot adopt immigration laws that interfere with the framework enacted by Congress. The Justice Department will continue to fulfill its responsibility to uphold the Constitution and enforce federal law.”
The Justice Department references a 2012 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, Arizona v. United States, in which the Court ruled that the removal of noncitizens from the country touches “on foreign relations and must be made with one voice.”
“SB 4 impedes the federal government’s ability to enforce entry and removal provisions of federal law and interferes with its conduct of foreign relations,” the Justice Department wrote.
In a statement posted to X Wednesday regarding the lawsuit, Gov. Abbott wrote “I like my chances.”
“Biden sued me today because I signed a law making it illegal for an illegal immigrant to enter or attempt to enter Texas directly from a foreign nation,” Abbott wrote.
“Texas is the only government in America trying to stop illegal immigration,” he added.
Read the Department of Justice’s full complaint against the State of Texas here.