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US Justice Department sues Texas over 'unconstitutional' immigration law

The strict immigration law, known as SB 4, makes unauthorised immigration a state crime, ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.

US Justice Department sues Texas over unconstitutional immigration law

Representative image

NEW YORK: The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas to challenge an immigration law that allows the state police to arrest, detain, and deport individuals suspected of illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border.

The strict immigration law, known as SB 4, makes unauthorised immigration a state crime, ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.

This means that entering Texas illegally from Mexico would be treated as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, and as a felony offense, it would be punishable with up to 2, 10 or 20 years in jail.

In a release issued on Wednesday, the DOJ said that 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 Constitution, it said, assigns the federal government the authority to regulate immigration and manage international borders.

Pursuant to this authority, Congress has established a comprehensive framework governing the entry of non-citizens into the US and their removal from the country.

"Because SB 4 is preempted by federal law and violates the US Constitution, the Justice Department seeks a declaration that SB 4 is invalid and an order preliminarily and permanently enjoining the state from enforcing the law," the release stated.

The move comes after the Biden administration warned the Republican-controlled Texas on December 28 last year that it will sue the state if it implements SB 4.

In a letter sent to Governor Greg Abbott, the DOJ had asked Texas to assure federal officials by January 3 that the law will not be enforced, failing which it will file a lawsuit against SB 4.

Abbott signed the controversial law in December, arguing that it will deter illegal border crossings. SB 4 passed both houses of the Texas legislature in November.

Calling the Bill "clearly unconstitutional", Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said: "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".

“We have brought this action to ensure that Texas adheres to the framework adopted by Congress and the Constitution for regulation of immigration," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M Boynton, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division.

As outlined in the complaint, Texas' law would create two new state crimes that attempt to regulate immigration, and in addition, would give state judges the ability to order removal from the US.

The Supreme Court, in Arizona v United States, has previously confirmed that decisions relating to removal of non-citizens from the US touch "on foreign relations and must be made with one voice".

The suit was filed on behalf of the US, including the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State.

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