Texas law that would allow arrest of migrants argued in front of federal appeals court

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Fate of Texas' SB 4 law now in hands of 3-judge panel in New Orleans
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Wednesday over SB 4, a controversial Texas law that would allow the arrest of migrants.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (KTRK) -- The fate of Texas' controversial immigration law, SB4, is now in the hands of a three-judge panel in New Orleans.

State attorneys faced off with President Joe Biden's administration in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

SB4 was supposed to go into effect in March, but it's been working its way through the legal system since last year.

A federal judge ruled in late February that the law likely conflicts with federal immigration policy. Wednesday's hearing is on an appeal of that decision.

SB4 is on hold right now, but it would allow local law enforcement agencies to arrest and deport people suspected of being in the country illegally. Lawyers went back and forth Wednesday over whether that's constitutional.

RELATED: Texas' controversial migrant arrest law is back on hold after briefly taking effect Tuesday

During the short time the law was in effect Tuesday, Texas authorities did not announce that any arrests had been made or say whether it was being actively enforced.

In court, the state's attorneys admitted deportations are the federal government's responsibility. However, they argued that local police should still be able to make immigration arrests.

Attorneys for the federal government and civil rights groups say that's unconstitutional and authorizes untrained police officers to make complex decisions about immigration law.

ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said leaders in other border states are also watching this case closely to see how far they can go on immigration.

"I think that's one of the concerns the Biden administration has," he said. "You need a rational and coherent policy that doesn't vary depending on what state you happen to be in."

There's no timetable for when the judges will issue a ruling, but the same panel already decided that SB4 should stay blocked while the case plays out. Legal experts say regardless, it's likely the case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

RELATED: US-Mexico border sees decrease in migrant arrests in March, Border Patrol reports

Fewer migrant people were arrested coming over the U.S.-Mexico border in March than in the months before, according to newly released numbers from the Border Patrol.