A new lawsuit by the Biden administration filed this week targeting Texas’ new anti-illegal immigration law marks the latest legal move in a long line of challenges by the administration against state-led efforts to stop illegal immigration.
The Department of Justice on Wednesday filed a lawsuit over a law recently signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, which allows state and local law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants. The DOJ said it challenged the federal government’s authority.
“The United States brings this action to preserve its exclusive authority under federal law to regulate the entry and removal of noncitizens,” the lawsuit states. “Texas cannot run its own immigration system. Its efforts, through SB 4, intrude on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate the entry and removal of noncitizens, frustrate the United States’ immigration operations and proceedings, and interfere with U.S. foreign relations.”
Abbott responded by taking aim at the Biden administration, which he said would “rather sue Texas for our efforts to secure the border than enforce federal laws that would eliminate this crisis.”
“Texas will not back down,” he said.
The latest legal move comes just days after the DOJ requested the Supreme Court to intervene in a legal dispute with Texas over the construction of razor wire at the border. Texas had initiated the lawsuit after federal officials had cut and destroyed the wire it had set up to stop illegal crossings.
The state accused the government of illegally destroying property owned by the state and harming border efforts, but the government has said that the wire inhibits Border Patrol’s ability to patrol the border and that agents must apprehend illegal immigrants and take them into custody.
After an appeals court blocked the administration from destroying the wire, the DOJ filed the application with the Supreme Court to take up the case.
Separately, another legal dispute was being fought last month over Texas’ construction of a floating barrier on the Rio Grande to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the river.
The DOJ said the barrier poses a safety risk, violates federal law and interferes with the government’s ability to “carry out its official duties.” Specifically, it said the barrier violates the Rivers and Harbors Act, which protects navigable waters from obstructions and outlines authorities for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Fifth Court of Appeals ruled this time in favor of the administration and ordered Texas to take down 1,000 feet of the barrier. It remains to be seen if the case will progress any further.
The anti-barrier battle fought between Texas and the administration on multiple fronts also echoes a similar fight with Arizona a year earlier, when the administration sued Arizona over its construction of a makeshift border barrier by then-Gov. Doug Ducey using shipping containers and razor wire to prevent illegal immigrants coming into the U.S.
That lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, says that the installation of multi-ton shipping containers, welded shut and topped with razor wire, “damage[s] federal lands, threaten[s] public safety, and impede[s] the ability of federal agencies and officials, including law enforcement personnel, to perform their official duties.”
Ultimately, Arizona backed down and removed the containers.
The lawsuits against Texas are likely to remain a hot issue in 2024. There were more than 302,000 migrant encounters in December alone, which has increased political pressure on the administration. It has said it is pursuing a policy of expanding lawful pathways for migration and increasing consequences for illegal entry but that it also needs funding and immigration reform from Congress. Negotiations have been ongoing for billions in border funding, with Republicans demanding greater limits on releases of migrants into the interior.