Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Texas immigration law oversteps U.S. government


Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill late last year that would allow state and local authorities to arrest people who they believe are suspicious of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally. The bill is still on hold due to a legal back and forth between courts. 

SB 4 would make unauthorized border crossing a state crime. State and local police officers would have the authority to arrest people suspected of crossing the border illegally without asking the person about their immigration status.

“This law is written horribly. It’s terrible,” attorney Haim Vasquez said. “The law is not taking into consideration the current process or future process that an undocumented migrant could have in immigration court or through affirmative work, whether it’s marriage, possible asylum, work authorization under parole, or a family petition either by a sibling or a child or a spouse.”  

Those convicted of crossing illegally would be charged a Class-B misdemeanor, a conviction worth up to six months in jail. A second offense would result in up to 20 years in prison. 

“I think we’re going to be very selective about the cases we pick up,” Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carillo, whose jurisdiction is located along the west Texas border, said. “Our jail is at capacity as we speak today, and to start incarcerating undocumented people and charging them a misdemeanor crime is a discussion I’ll have to have with my county attorney.’

A person convicted under SB 4 could have their charges dropped if they voluntarily agree to go back to Mexico. If a person is convicted and serves their term, they will be deported after their sentence. The bill also allows courts to deport migrants to entry ports in Mexico regardless of where their home country is.  

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to be enforced for several hours during consideration, but a lower court pulled the law back and called for a hearing. While the appeals court deliberates, SB 4 will be put on hold. 

“It’s a landmark bill that allows Texas to protect Texans and to send illegal immigrants back, and to prosecute and incarcerate those that refuse to leave,” State Representative and sponsor of SB 4 Dave Spiller said.  

Texas is being sued over SB 4 by the Biden Administration and other immigrant rights organizations who have claimed the bill to be unconstitutional because it interferes with federal immigration laws, a role federal courts have said falls under the federal government’s purview. 

“We know that this law is going to increase racial profiling. We know that this law is going to strip people of their constitutional rights. We know that this law is also going to lead to the mass criminalization of our communities,” Alan Lizarraga, a spokesperson for the Border Network for Human Rights, said.

SB 4 is not the first of its kind. In 2012, Arizona tried to pass a law that sought to create state-level crimes for immigration offenses and empower local law enforcement to check citizenship status and arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally. This was known as Arizona v. The United States, which resulted in a 5-3 decision to side with the federal government to strike down most of Arizona’s proposed law.  

For more information about SB 4, visit the bill analysis website.

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About the Contributor
Noah Willoughby, Staff Writer
Noah (he/him) is a Communications major at UTSA. Noah was born in San Antonio and has been here all of his life. He has spent a large portion of that life working with people who have disabilities throughout various jobs, but decided to come back to college to find a new path. He enjoys reading and writing and hopes to do the latter as a full-time gig.

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