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Texas Lawmakers Approve Country’s Most Extreme Anti-Immigrant Laws

“Cruelty to migrants is not — and never will be — a policy solution,” the ACLU of Texas said.

A boy carefully grips razor wire as he emerges from the banks of the Rio Grande after crossing over the U.S. / Mexico border with family, at Eagle Pass, Texas, on September 23, 2023.

The Texas House of Representatives approved some of the U.S.’s most radical anti-immigrant bills on Tuesday. If signed into law, these bills would allow the state to spend $1.5 billion on new state border walls and make illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border a state crime.

“This legislation is white supremacy in action that will encourage racial profiling and separate Texas families,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas said on social media.

Senate Bill 3 would allocate $1.54 billion to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to use at his discretion for border-related operations — such as border walls and more razor wire and floating barriers in the Rio Grande — and finance local police and government enforcement of Senate Bill 4. SB 4 would make illegally crossing the border from Mexico into Texas a state misdemeanor and require that state judges order undocumented migrants to leave the U.S. and go to Mexico in lieu of prosecution.

Under SB 4, the misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of a year in jail, could be heightened to a felony, which has a penalty of two to 20 years in prison, if a migrant is accused of other crimes or refuses to comply with a judge’s order to return to Mexico.

“#SB4 will override national immigration law and violate the Constitution. It also — ATTENTION — gives local law enforcement and certain judges the power to *deport people* without due process,” said the ACLU of Texas. “We can’t let Texas’ leaders normalize this kind of hate.”

During a House debate on Tuesday, lawmakers adopted an amendment to SB 3 that needs to be approved by the Senate before being sent to the governor. SB 4 has already been approved by the Senate and will now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

“Texas politicians have pushed through some of the most radical anti-immigrant bills ever passed by any state,” Oni K. Blair, executive director at the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. “If signed into law, these bills will directly harm people seeking asylum, Black and Brown communities, and the core principles of our democracy.”

In addition to SB 3 and SB 4, lawmakers passed a third anti-immigrant bill last special session which currently awaits the governor’s signature. This bill would significantly expand the enforcement of the state’s criminal “human smuggling” laws and impose a mandatory 10-year minimum in most cases.

“Gov. Abbott is on the verge of enacting some of the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation in the country. This is completely out of touch with our values and who we aspire to be as Texans,” the ACLU of Texas said on social media. “Cruelty to migrants is not — and never will be — a policy solution.”

The nation’s oldest and largest Latinx civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), has condemned the anti-immigrant bills and said that it will file a lawsuit challenging these bills once they are signed into law.

“LULAC opposes this out-of-control Governor and Republicans in the legislature on a hateful rampage toward asylum seekers and refugees,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President, said in a statement. “Their actions violate federal sovereignty over immigration laws. We are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene and seek a court injunction to stop the implementation of these harsh and illegal measures. LULAC will again sue in federal court to stop these illegal, unconstitutional laws from taking effect.”

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