BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday approved sweeping new powers that allow police to arrest migrants who illegally cross the U.S. border and give local judges authority to order them to leave the country, testing the limits of how far a state can go to enforce immigration laws.
Opponents have called the measure the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since a 2010 Arizona law — denounced by critics as the “Show Me Your Papers” bill — that was largely struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, and Texas’ law is also likely to face swift legal challenges.
The law, which takes effect in March, allows any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people who are suspected of entering the country illegally. Once in custody, they could either agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry. Migrants who don’t leave could face arrest again under more serious felony charges.
Abbott, who signed the law in front of a section of the border fence in Brownsville, predicted the number of people crossing illegally into Texas would drop by “well over 50%, maybe 75%.” He did not offer evidence for that estimate.