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Judge skeptical of Texas law that would allow migrants to be detained for illegal entry

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Judge skeptical of Texas law that would allow migrants to be detained for illegal entry

Federal Judge Expresses Concern Over Texas Law Allowing Police to Detain Migrants

A federal judge in Texas has expressed concern about a new state law that would give police broad authority to detain migrants on illegal entry charges starting in March. U.S. District Judge David Ezra said it would be a “nightmare” if the United States became a patchwork of states that apply different immigration laws.

Ezra, who was appointed to the position by former President Ronald Reagan, did not issue a ruling at this time. He is reviewing a lawsuit brought by the federal Department of Justice, marking the first legal test of what opponents have called the most drastic attempt by a state to control immigration since the 2010 Arizona law, which the Supreme Court partially repealed.

The judge appeared skeptical during a nearly three-hour hearing in Austin, often harshly questioning lawyers defending the law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Ezra, however, did not indicate exactly when he would rule.

The measure in question would allow any Texas law enforcement officer to detain people suspected of entering the country illegally. Once detained, they could accept a Texas judge’s order to leave the United States or be prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge of illegal entry. Migrants who do not leave U.S. territory could be detained again and charged with a more serious crime.

Ezra noted his experience in cases involving border issues and his familiarity with concerns raised by Abbott and other state officials about illegal crossings. However, he voiced doubt that everyone who crosses the border is a criminal and questioned whether empowering local judges to expel people from the country could interfere with federal processes or protections.

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The tensions have intensified for months between the Biden administration and Texas over who and how can patrol the border. The Justice Department has taken Texas to court over a floating fence over the Rio Grande, and has defended the authority of U.S. Border Patrol agents to cut and remove miles of barbed wire that the state has installed along the border.

Civil rights groups have argued that the new law, known as Senate Bill 4, could lead to civil rights violations and racial profiling. Republicans have defended the law, saying it would likely only apply near the U.S.-Mexico border and would not be used to persecute migrants who have been established in the United States for a long time because the misdemeanor charge expires after two years.

The case continues to draw attention as it represents a key legal battle amidst ongoing conflict between the Biden administration and Republican governors in various states over immigration enforcement.

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