Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed strict legislation on Monday, making it a criminal offence to enter the state illegally crossing the southern border, sparking a potential clash with President Joe Biden’s administration over immigration policy and border enforcement.
The law allows authorities of the American state to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, NBC News reported.
Abbott, a Republican who has implemented other policies directed at migrants that have drawn court challenges, 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 bill’s goal was to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas.”
Meanwhile, crossing into the United States between designated ports of entry is already a crime under federal law.
Abbott’s signature follows the Republican-controlled state Legislature’s approval of the measure and Washington’s negotiations on an immigration deal in exchange for additional aid to Ukraine and Israel which is a high priority for the White House.
As part of Operation Lone Star, a border enforcement initiative, Texas authorities have been apprehending immigrants on state misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing.
However, the new law makes it a misdemeanour to enter Texas from a foreign country at any location other than a lawful port of entry. It is set to take effect in March.
It is unclear whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) will sue Texas over the new law after a letter signed by a group of 21 Texas Democrats and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called for the DOJ to step in and block the new legislation.
As “the most extreme anti-immigrant state bill,” the group called the law.
The bill represents the governor of Texas’ most recent attempt to use state power to discourage migrant crossings.
Previously, Abbott ordered the installation of a 1,000-foot floating barrier near Eagle Pass, Texas, and for the placement of razor wire near the Rio Grande to stop migrants from entering the state after crossing the river from Mexico.
Abbott’s attempt to stop federal authorities from removing the razor wire was denied by a federal court last month, and this month a federal appeals court ruled that the state must remove the buoy barrier.
Abbott’s office has also bused thousands of migrants out of Texas to cities like Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles since last year.