Texas’ migrant arrest law is back on hold after briefly taking effect

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Migrants who crossed the Rio Grande and entered the US from Mexico are lined up for processing by US Customs and Border Protection on Sept 23, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP)

McALLEN, Texas, March 20, (AP): Texas’ plans to arrest migrants suspected of entering the US illegally were again on hold Wednesday after setting off uncertainty along the border and anger from Mexico flared during a brief few hours that the law was allowed to take effect.
A late-night order Tuesday from a 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel temporarily put on hold – again – Texas’ dramatic state expansion into border enforcement. Earlier in the day, the US Supreme Court had cleared the way for the strict immigration law, dealing a victory to Republican Gov Greg Abbott and encouraging GOP lawmakers in other states that are pushing for similar measures.
But later in a 2-1 order, an appeals court panel continued the legal seesaw surrounding the Texas law, again putting it on pause ahead of oral arguments that were scheduled for Wednesday. It was not clear how quickly the next decision might come.
During the short time the law was in effect Tuesday, Texas authorities did not announce that any arrests had been made or say whether it was being actively enforced. Along the border in Kinney County, Sheriff Brad Coe embraced the arrest powers but said deputies would need probable cause.
“It is unlikely that observers will see an overnight change,” said Coe, whose county covers a stretch of border near Del Rio that until recently had been the busiest corridor for illegal crossings but has quieted considerably.
The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the law. It instead kicked back to the lower appeals court a challenge led by the Justice Department, which has argued that Texas is overstepping the federal government’s immigration authority.
The latest appeals court order included no explanation from the panel. But it had the effect of restoring an injunction issued in February by US District Judge David Ezra, who rebuked the law on multiple fronts. His 114-page opinion brushed off Republicans’ claims of an “invasion” along the southern border due to record-high illegal crossings. Ezra, an appointee of former president Ronald Reagan, also warned that the law could hamper US foreign relations.
Under the Texas law, once defendants are in custody on illegal entry charges, they can agree to a judge’s order to leave the US or face prosecution. On Tuesday, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary said in a sharply worded statement that it would refuse to take anyone back who is ordered to cross the border.

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