In a heated session last Thursday, the Texas Senate advanced two immigration-related bills, one of which has sparked controversy for its proposal to empower state police to arrest migrants crossing the southern border.
Senate Bill 11, sponsored by State Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), aims to create a new state crime for individuals who illegally enter Texas from Mexico.
Under this bill, state police would be authorized to arrest violators. For first-time offenders, a conviction could result in a misdemeanor charge. However, if an individual has a criminal record and has repeatedly entered the country illegally, the penalty would be elevated to a felony.
The Senate gave its initial approval to SB 11 with a 19-12 vote, but the bill still requires a final vote in the Senate before it advances to the House.
Senate Bill 4, sponsored by State Senator Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), focuses on increasing the minimum sentence for smuggling immigrants or operating stash houses from two years to 10 years. SB 4 garnered bipartisan support, passing with a 29-2 vote.
Governor Gregg Abbott had previously urged lawmakers to approve immigration enforcement proposals during both the regular legislative session and a previous special session. Still, disagreements prevented the passage of an immigration enforcement bill.
Governor Abbott has long been critical of the Biden administration, holding it responsible for the record-breaking number of Border Patrol apprehensions at the southern border.
It’s worth noting that SB 11 could face legal challenges from the federal government, as the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts have consistently ruled that the federal government holds sole authority over enforcing the country’s immigration laws.
Many states’ attempts to implement their own immigration laws have faced legal challenges and been overturned or diluted over the years.
In other immigration-related news, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sparked controversy by insisting that the United States should refuse to accept refugees from Gaza, labeling them as “all anti-Semitic.”
This statement comes as the Israeli military ordered Gazans living in the northern part of the country to relocate to the south in anticipation of an expected ground invasion.
Gaza, a densely-populated enclave with two million residents, is surrounded by Israel, and the border with Egypt has been closed due to diplomatic disputes over allowing Gazans to leave.
DeSantis argued that the Arab states should be responsible for accepting Gazan refugees rather than the United States.
Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, a member of the progressive “Squad,” countered DeSantis’s stance, urging the United States to welcome refugees from Palestine while carefully vetting to prevent the entry of Hamas members.
However, multiple Republican senators have already expressed opposition to any plan to resettle refugees in the United States, citing concerns about terrorism risks and the need to focus on other priorities.
The White House has yet to clarify its stance on accepting refugees from the Gaza conflict, but the situation remains uncertain as hundreds of thousands of individuals remain trapped inside Gaza, with the border with Egypt being their only functioning route out.