Legal Immigrants in Texas Should Also Have Concerns

This week, Texas is currently engaged in a legal battle to enforce its recently enacted immigration law, SB 4. This law represents a groundbreaking effort to override federal immigration policies, granting the state the authority to issue orders for immigrants to depart from Texas.

Iowa and other states are pushing forward with copycat bills, claiming it’s about “state sovereignty.” However, the true intention behind these bills is to create havoc for immigrants who are already struggling with the complex immigration system in the United States.

SB 4 gives the state the authority to charge immigrants who enter the United States illegally with a misdemeanor. Judges will then order them to leave the country and state police will be required to drive them to the Mexican border. If these immigrants fail to leave or attempt to re-enter, they could face felony charges. This approach is problematic from both a legal and practical perspective.

Texas argues that their law is a reflection of federal immigration law, but in reality, it deviates significantly from it. This legislation poses a direct threat not only to immigrants who possess the legal right to be in the United States under federal law but also to naturalized U.S. citizens.

Under federal law, individuals who enter the country illegally can face criminal charges and be ordered to leave. However, there are also opportunities for these immigrants to seek lawful status or relief from deportation before being removed. The following options are available to them: asylum, withholding of removal, protection under the Convention Against Torture, U visas for victims of crime, T visas for victims of trafficking, and cancellation of removal.

Texas doesn’t just target applicants for status under SB 4, but it goes further by criminalizing individuals who have already received asylum, a green card, or U.S. citizenship. If someone has re-entered the country after a previous deportation, they can be charged with a felony.

It may come as a surprise to the bill’s authors, but individuals who have been deported have the ability to legally or illegally reenter the country and subsequently obtain a green card through family sponsorship, Congress-enacted legalization programs, or other similar programs. Following this, they can go on to become naturalized citizens.

Every single day, legal immigrants who have been denied admission or excluded at airports or land ports of entry into the U.S. are at risk of felony prosecution. It is outrageous that even immigrants who have never entered the country illegally or been deported would face such consequences. These individuals can simply go back and reapply to enter legally.

During a recent interview, I had the opportunity to speak with a U.S. citizen and military veteran whose fiancé faced exclusion and denial of admission at a port. The reason behind this decision was the assumption that they would likely get married while in the country, which was considered problematic. Interestingly, the fiancé had been traveling to the United States for years as a girlfriend under the Visa Waiver Program, never expecting to be seen as a threat as a fiancée. As a result of this incident, they were forced to live in exile in Europe for several years. However, it is worth noting that the fiancé is now residing legally in Louisiana, a state that has recently introduced a bill similar to SB 4.

SB 4 and similar bills are not only focused on illegal immigrants, but they also pose a direct threat to numerous legal immigrants, including spouses, guest workers, skilled workers, and business travelers. This legislation not only targets those without legal status but also jeopardizes the status of hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants, some of whom may have even become U.S. citizens. Although Texas has a relatively short statute of limitations that might offer protection to certain U.S. citizens, residents in other states might face longer periods of uncertainty and vulnerability.

Texas responds to the courts by assuring them, “Trust us! We won’t overstep.”

Texas has continually crossed boundaries in its border conflict. It has unlawfully instructed immigrants to trespass on private property and subsequently arrested them for doing so. Furthermore, it has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against fathers, prohibited all transportation of migrants, detained immigrants without providing legal representation or filing charges against them, and even halted trade with Mexico. Moreover, it has gone as far as charging a Catholic charity with “human smuggling” and committing numerous other acts in this regard.

Legal immigrants may not be the intended focus of the legislation, but they serve as a prime example of why it is impractical for each of the 50 states to create their own immigration laws.

Even in cases where someone crosses the border illegally, chaos is bound to ensue. Texas intends to instruct these individuals to leave the country and intends to transport them to the Mexico border in order to expel them. However, Mexico’s government has made it clear that it will not permit this to occur, and the federal government is not offering any assistance.

So what happens after the police march the immigrants to the border? If the immigrants don’t break any laws in Mexico, will they be arrested again for felonies? And what about when Iowa transports immigrants to the Texas border and leaves them there? In Texas, at least you can witness someone crossing illegally. On what basis will Iowa and other states justify their “deportations”?

The complexities in this situation are boundless. While having a “lawful presence” that is granted by the federal government can serve as a defense against prosecution (although not arrest), states lack a direct means to verify this information.

The other perspective is that Texas may not have anticipated the full enforcement of this controversial law and therefore did not thoroughly consider its ramifications. Governor Greg Abbott recently stated that he still needs to discuss with the Department of Public Safety, the state National Guard, and local police on the specific implementation of this law. It is evident that even they were taken aback when the Supreme Court temporarily allowed the law to take effect.

The main motive behind this law is political: it falsely asserts that the federal government is causing disorder by not enforcing immigration laws, therefore states should step in. However, SB 4 demonstrates precisely why states are not the solution to chaos. Instead, they will only exacerbate the problem.

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MBS Staff
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