Texas gov. Greg Abbott approves measure allowing police to arrest illegal migrants

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation on Monday making illegal entry into the state a crime, setting up a potential showdown with President Joe Biden’s administration over immigration policy and border enforcement.

Abbott, a Republican who has imposed other anti-migrant laws that have been challenged in court, signed the bill at an event in Brownsville, Texas.

“Biden’s deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” Abbott said, adding that the purpose of the bill was to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas.”

Under federal law, crossing into the United States between specified ports of entry is already a crime.

Texas gov. Greg Abbott approves measure allowing police to arrest illegal migrants

Abbott’s signature comes after the Republican-controlled state Legislature approved the measure last month, and as negotiators in Washington try to hammer out an immigration deal that Republicans are insisting on in exchange for additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, both of which are high priorities for the White House.

Local police in Texas have arrested migrants on state misdemeanor counts of criminal trespassing in recent years as part of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border enforcement operation.

It is now a criminal to enter or attempt to enter Texas from a foreign country at any location other than a lawful port of entry, according to legislation enacted on Monday. It is expected to take effect in March.

A Justice Department representative did not reply quickly Monday night to a request for comment on whether the DOJ planned to sue Texas over the new law.

Texas gov. Greg Abbott approves measure allowing police to arrest illegal migrants

A group of 21 Texas Democrats and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus filed a letter on Monday urging the Justice Department to intervene and prevent the new law, which they called “the most extreme anti-immigrant state bill.”

The bill is the latest move by Texas’ governor to discourage migrant crossings through governmental intervention. Abbott earlier directed the construction of a 1,000-foot floating barrier in Eagle Pass, Texas, as well as the installation of razor wire near the Rio Grande to prevent migrants from crossing the river from Mexico.

Both measures were denied in court, with a federal appeals court finding this month that the state must remove the buoy barrier and a federal court denying Abbott’s bid to prohibit federal officials from removing the razor wire last month.

Since last year, Abbott’s government has bused thousands of migrants out of Texas to cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

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