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Texas immigration war escalates

Texas will start arresting illegal immigrants directly, and the Justice Department threatens to sue Texas for doing their job.

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The State of Texas raised the stakes last week in its continuing struggle to stop the flood of illegal immigrants. On Monday December 18, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed a new law granting Texas law-enforcement officers the authority to arrest illegal immigrants which they find within the State. In response, the federal government threatens to sue the State if it enforces that law. If it does, this will be the third such legal battle between the State and federal governments. These battles clearly arise out of the federal government’s failure to protect against what Texas calls an invasion. Furthermore, some elected officials have made statements suggesting the federal government is using that illegal immigrant flow for its own political ends.

The latest between Texas and the federals

On December 18, Gov. Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, a measure allowing Texas law-enforcement agencies to arrest illegal immigrants. Usually, such arrests are a federal function, not a State function. But what is a State to do if the federals refuse to arrest illegal immigrants? Arrest them themselves.

NBC News had the full particulars on the signing ceremony, and the new law. This law makes it a misdemeanor – criminal trespass – to cross the border into Texas at any place other than a lawful point of entry.

But this X post, from five days earlier, highlights the real issue.

That video describes a freight train, with illegal migrants clinging to it, that was already headed to the U.S.-Mexican border. On Christmas Eve, Reuters reported on another massive illegal migrant caravan headed for the U.S. (Jim Hoft at TGP noted it as well.)


Gov. Abbott has previously tried to stop illegal immigrants in two ways:

  1. Placing physical barriers, specifically concertina wire and the recent string of buoys along the Rio Grande, and
  2. Transporting migrants to any place other than Texas where they might want to settle, including New York and Washington.

The second part has engendered the most controversy to date. Bradlee Dean has accused Abbott (and Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.) of “importing, not deporting,” and doing what President Joe Biden wants. Lately, Mayor Brandon Johnson of Chicago has started to impound buses bringing migrants into his city. Abbott responded in part – by airlifting migrants instead.

The barriers

The transportation program has already borne a curious fruit. Mayor Johnson – and Mayor Eric Adams of New York – are complaining about the migrant load. And they are calling on Joe Biden to stop it. The Biden administration responds by insisting that Govs. Abbott and DeSantis ought to take care of the migrants in their own States. (And presumably register them to vote, thus sacrificing their jobs.)

But the physical barriers has provoked the legal controversy. Abbott strung concertina wire along property lines fronting the Northern Rio Grande Valley. Border patrol agents have, on several occasions, cut the wires. Lately Texas has won injunctive relief against the wire cutting.

When Abbott placed a floating buoy barrier along the Rio Grande, the government sued to have it removed. The government said that the barrier was a menace to navigation, in violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Texas has petitioned the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear the case en banc.

And now, the arrests

But recently the governor, by his own avowal, raised the stakes. By declaring illegal immigrants guilty of a misdemeanor, he has empowered Texas State and local law-enforcement personnel to arrest them. He first announced this on Sunday, December 3. He must have been talking about SB 4 then. On December 18, he actually signed it into law.


The law takes full force and effect on March 5, 2024.

In response, Brian Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, sent Gov. Abbott a letter.

The message is plain: either Texas declines to enforce this law, or the federal government will sue to enjoin it. Boynton says the new Texas law exceeds the lawful authority of the States. It does this, says Boynton, by asserting a power the Constitution delegates to the federal government alone. That power is the power to secure the border and decide who stays in the United States – and who goes. He cites Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 394 (2012).

(Note: this CBS picture shows the floating barrier and the concertina wire – the physical barriers Abbot has already tried using.)

Boynton suggested that if Gov. Abbott could cite facts or law to support SB 4, he should share. This is what Gov. Abbott shared in reply:


Reaction to the Texas law, and the threats

When CBS News released its X post about the threatening letter, that post got some pointed reaction. Most of it was negative – toward the Biden administration, and perhaps toward CBS.

This user cited Amendment X as the source of Texas’ authority.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Perhaps that user should have cited Article I, Section 10, Clause 3:

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, … engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

But in reaction to Gov. Abbott’s quote of the CBS post, one user suggested Texas LEOs might arrest federal agents.

In fact the most arrogant federal response to the Texas position comes, not from the Justice Department, but from a Member of Congress. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) openly decried all talk of an invasion from Mexico (or anywhere else).


So often people wanna (sic) say, “Why are you talking about the border crisis?” (Or, “why are you talking about it in this way?”) Well, we’re talking about it; they just don’t like how we’re talking about it. Because it’s not a border crisis. It’s an imperialism crisis, it’s a climate crisis; it’s a trade crisis. Because these … this is not a “surge.” These are children. And they are not insurgents, and we are not being invaded. Which, by the way, is a white-supremacist idea, philosophy,… Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

That didn’t go over very well, either.


Throughout this process, Texas has merely sought to try to protect the border when the federal government would not. Does the government wish to leave the border unprotected? Cullen Linebarger of TGP says yes, and suggests why. Three weeks ago he recalled Vivek Ramaswamy’s statement that the Democratic Party wants to replace those who vote against it, with others more likely to vote for them – and the handouts they offer.

Ramaswamy has a point – because more than a year ago, Sen. Charles M. Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave it to him.

When he said that, Schumer vindicated Tucker Carlson, who said the same six months earlier:

The Biden administration might be vindicating both men, through their reckless disregard not only of the truth but of the clear public knowledge of it. In any case, the threatened lawsuit against Texas makes no legal sense, apart from a motive to go on importing indigent – and mendicant – people.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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