The Biden administration has cautioned Texas against implementing Senate Bill 4 (SB4), a stringent immigration law. The law, if enacted, would grant state and local law enforcement the authority to arrest, detain, and prosecute migrants suspected of entering the U.S. unlawfully.
The Justice Department, in a letter dated December 28 addressed to Governor Greg Abbott, conveyed the intent to file a lawsuit if Texas fails to assure federal officials by January 3 that it will refrain from enforcing SB4 as planned in March. The letter obtained by CBS News highlights concerns about the law’s potential impact on existing federal immigration policies.
According to the Justice Department, SB4 could criminalize actions already prohibited at the federal level, strain diplomatic relations with Mexico, and impede the enforcement of federal immigration laws, including those providing refuge to migrants fleeing persecution.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton asserted in the letter, “Because SB 4 is unconstitutional and will disrupt the federal government’s operations, we request that Texas forbear in its enforcement.” The administration warned that failing to comply would lead to legal action to prevent the enforcement of SB4.
SB4, signed by Governor Abbott earlier this month, represents Texas’s latest challenge to President Biden on immigration. The law, if enacted, would categorize unauthorized immigration as a state crime, varying from a misdemeanor to a felony. Penalties include up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for illegal entry, while illegal reentry could result in felony charges carrying sentences of 2, 10, or 20 years, depending on prior deportation or criminal history.
Notably, SB4 grants Texas magistrates the authority to order migrants suspected of violating immigration laws to return to Mexico. Critics argue that this law could lead to racial profiling and overwhelm law enforcement, potentially diverting resources from addressing more serious criminal issues. The Mexican government has already rejected the law, denouncing it as “anti-immigrant.”
As tensions rise between the Biden administration and Texas over immigration policies, the fate of SB4 hangs in the balance, awaiting a response from state officials to the federal warning.