HomePoliticsGreg Abbott aims for a battle at the border

Greg Abbott aims for a battle at the border

EAGLE PASS, Texas – Since the start of the Biden administration, Gov Greg Abbott of Texas has increasingly challenged the federal government on immigration, questioning the idea, long championed by federal courts, that it is Washington, not border states, that sets immigration policy.

Abbott has been able to score some important victories, pushing the boundaries of what a governor can do when it comes to immigration enforcement.

With the support of the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature, he has poured more than $10 billion into a long-term deployment of state police and National Guard troops to the border, leaving parts of Texas communities along the Rio Grande converted into quasi-military encampments. complete with bases for soldiers and concertina wire borders.

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“Texas is doing its part to secure a border made wide open by Joe Biden,” Abbott said at the start of a December news conference near a stretch of towering steel border fencing installed and paid for by the state.

Lawyers for Abbott and the state of Texas went to a federal appeals court Wednesday for what the governor seemed to be aiming for all along: a showdown with the federal government over Texas’ power to set its own immigration policy.

The legal battle centers on the state’s most ambitious and bold challenge yet to federal supremacy over immigration: a new law signed by the governor that makes it a crime for migrants to enter Texas from abroad without authorization , which is punishable by imprisonment. , deportation by the state, or both.

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Even before a final ruling in the case, Abbott was able to briefly celebrate a victory Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law, known as Senate Bill 4, to take effect at least temporarily. For a few hours, the Supreme Court gave the state of Texas the power to take immigration enforcement more fully into its own hands.

But officers in Texas had not yet made any arrests under the law when later on Tuesday the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order lifting the previous suspension and temporarily reinstating an injunction blocking the law’s implementation.

The ultimate outcome of the case remained an open question. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit would hear arguments on whether the order should be set aside during the many months it would take for Texas to appeal the ruling, or reinstate the order and reinstate the law. would stand guard while the case was being heard. the appeal procedure.

But for Abbott, the focus on the border and the legal wrangling over his border enforcement program, known as Operation Lone Star, have already yielded major political gains.

His direct challenges on immigration policy — a top issue for Texans, especially Republicans — have won him strong support within his own party and majority support in the state.

His legal battle with the Biden administration has brought Republican governors from across the country to his side, prompting 25 of them to join a declaration in January that they “stand with Texas.”

Abbott beamed as he sat next to Donald Trump during a recent visit by the former president to the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. He later played on Trump’s suggestion that he could be considered as a running mate.

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“He’s very nice about suggesting things like that,” Abbott said in an interview, adding that he was “deeply committed” to governing Texas and would eventually seek a fourth term.

However, Abbott was not always viewed with affection by immigration hardliners and Trump supporters. During his 2022 re-election campaign, he faced major challenges from several Republicans, including former Sen. Don Huffines, who repeatedly challenged Abbott to take more aggressive steps at the border. Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson invited Huffines to appear on his show and join him in attacking the governor in 2021.

Since then, Abbott has taken a hard turn, one that he says was prompted not by political pressure but by what he says was the federal government’s failure to adequately secure the border.

He has sent thousands of National Guard members to the border.

He used a migrant bus program, initially derided by critics as a political stunt, to send more than 100,000 migrants out of state, turning Texas’ record number of arrivals into a pressing political issue for Democrats in cities like New York and Chicago. The bus program divided his political opponents and helped change the terms of the national debate on immigration.

He placed a barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande, forcing the federal government to fight him in court to remove them. He directed state police to establish a program to arrest migrants found on private farmland and charge them with criminal trespass.

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And in an effort clearly intended to directly confront the constitutional questions of whether any state has the right to assume the federal government’s role in immigration matters, Abbott advanced a legal theory of an “invasion” of migrants, put forward by Huffines and a former Trump administration. civil servants. The governor formally declared the arrival of record numbers of migrants as an invasion and invoked a part of the US Constitution that, according to his argument, allows states to take over war powers in such situations.

Abbott has since reiterated his declaration of an invasion. Texas lawyers cited the legal theory of invasion as one of their arguments in defense of the migrant arrest law.

In issuing an injunction against the law last month, a federal district judge in Austin said the invasion argument failed on several counts, rejecting the idea that Texas was somehow at war. The Texas law violated federal statutes and was unconstitutional, the court ruled, citing decades of federal rulings and Supreme Court precedents.

But it was clear that in light of the Supreme Court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, Abbott fully intended to challenge these precedents, especially a 2012 decision, Arizona v. United States, in which the Supreme Court ruled with a 5 -3 vote reaffirmed the federal government’s broad power over immigration.

This bold legal move may ultimately fail in court. But for the governor, it has already been a winning strategy.

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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