Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday approved a law that will allow local and state police to arrest migrants believed to have entered the U.S. illegally and give local judges the power to order them to leave the country.
According to the Associated Press, the law will take effect in March, but some civil rights groups have already said they will take action and file a lawsuit over the bill.
The bill allows any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people they believe have entered the U.S. illegally. Those detained could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $2,000 fine. Otherwise, the detainees could agree to cooperate with a Texas judge to leave the U.S.
Democrats and immigrant activists criticized Abbott, saying the bill would lead to racial profiling of Hispanic or Latino Texans. Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador said his government would challenge the law, saying Abbott was making the policy to gain popularity.
“(Greg Abbott) sends to detain migrants in this cold season, already when the winter begins and takes them to New York, takes them and throws them in front of the houses where the Democrats leaders live,” AMLO said in Spanish, “he is evil from evil-land.”
Mexico is required to accept the deportation of Mexican citizens, but not citizens of other countries. The law orders all migrants to be sent to ports of entry at the border, even if they are not Mexican citizens. The majority of people apprehended for illegally crossing the U.S. border have been Venezuelans.
The bill has been called the most dramatic attempt by a state to control immigration since Arizona’s “show me your papers” law in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law, ruling that the federal government has authority over immigration enforcement.
“But we also welcome a Supreme Court decision that would overturn the precedent set in the Arizona case,” Abbott said.
Opponents said Republicans were using the law to force the court’s new majority to reconsider its Arizona decision.
Texas has been at odds with the U.S. government over immigration policy since Abbott launched his “Operation Lone Star” to curb illegal immigration.
Last summer, the Justice Department sued Abbott over the installation of a floating barrier on the Rio Grande border. A federal court and a federal appeals court ordered the buoys.
Attorney General Ken Paxton also sued the Department of Homeland Security, accusing federal border patrol agents of destroying state property by cutting razor wire the state installed along the border.
Texas could also face problems if Mexico decides not to accept non-Mexican citizens; when asked about that possibility, Abbott said the state wouldn’t accept such a response.