Anticipation, anger on Texas border as immigration law again on hold

Mar 20, 2024, 3:30 PM

In an aerial view, immigrants wade through the Rio Grande as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border to r...

In an aerial view, immigrants wade through the Rio Grande as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border to request asylum on March 13, 2024 in El Paso, Texas. The border between the two nations stretches nearly 2,000 miles, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and is marked by fences, deserts, mountains and the Rio Grande, which runs the entire length of Texas.(John Moore/Getty Images)

(John Moore/Getty Images)

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court late Tuesday again prevented Texas from arresting and deporting migrants accused of entering the U.S. illegally. This was hours after the law briefly took effect.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court earlier let the state law take effect while a legal challenge plays out. Some sheriffs were ready for an unprecedented state expansion into border enforcement. Others were reluctant.

Texas was silent in the hours after the ruling on whether and when state troopers or Texas National Guard soldiers — who have the most interaction with migrants —- would begin enforcement.

Hours later, an order by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the law again on hold. By a 2-1 order, a panel of the appeals court lifted that pause ahead of arguments before the court on Wednesday.

Response from Mexico to Texas immigration law

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary said in a sharply worded statement that it would refuse to take anyone back who is ordered to leave the country under the state law and that it “categorically rejects” any state or local government enforcement of immigration laws.

“Mexico reiterates the legitimate right to protect the rights of its nationals in the United States and to determine its own policies regarding entry into its territory,” the government said.

Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, who has largely embraced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s multibillion-dollar border enforcement effort, said he was “prepared to proceed with prosecutions” but officers would need “probable cause” to make arrests. His county covers a stretch of border near Del Rio that was recently the busiest corridor for illegal crossings but quieted considerably.

“It is unlikely that observers will see an overnight change,” Coe said.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, the top county executive, said immigration enforcement should remain a federal, not state, responsibility, echoing the Biden administration’s view. He said heightened law enforcement presence in the city of El Paso during a previous migrant surge brought high-speed chases and traffic stops based on assumptions that passengers were in the counry illegally.

“We had accidents, we had injuries, we got a little glimpse of what would happen if the state begins to control what happens in respect to immigration,” Samaniego said.

The Texas immigration law’s impact

The impact extends far beyond the Texas border. Republican legislators wrote the law so that it applies in all of the state’s 254 counties, although Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said he expects it will mostly be enforced near the border.

Other GOP-states far from the border are also already looking to follow Texas’ path. In Iowa, the state House gave final approval to a bill that would give its state law enforcement power to arrest people who are in the U.S. illegally and have previously been denied entry into the country.

It now goes to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. If signed, it would take effect in July.

“The federal government has abdicated its responsibilities. States can and must act,” said Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison.

Skylor Hearn, executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, said sheriffs’ offices have been training since last year.

“If a county chooses to take it on themselves, they are choosing for their taxpayers to take it on themselves as well,” Hearn said. “As long as the federal government is willing to do its part that it is supposed to be doing, it is ideal for them to take possession and custody of these people.”

Action at the border after the decisions

There was no immediate rush on the border. There was no word of arrests. But news of the Texas immigration ruling spread rapidly and triggered alarm among migrant advocates.

“Terrible, late-breaking news, my friends!” Carlos Eduardo Espina said on his TikTok account. The account has more than 8 million followers. Many of them are migrants in transit. He said the law would sow confusion and promised “know-your-rights” instructions on how to respond to police questioning.

Daniel Morales, an associate professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center, said the Texas immigration law “will be a mess, very clearly, to enforce.”

“It’s very clear that Greg Abbott wants to enforce the law so he can get lots of photo ops and opportunities. But it’s gonna take a lot of state resources to implement. And I don’t know, in fact, how much appetite and capacity for that the state government actually has,” Morales said. Texas will find enforcement is “difficult and taxing,” he said.

Number of arrests has fallen

Arrests for illegal crossings fell by half between January and December. And Texas saw a sharp decline. Arrests in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, the focus of Abbott’s enforcement, fell 76% from December. Rio Grande Valley recorded its fewest arrests since June 2020. It has been the busiest corridor for illegal crossings for much of the last decade.

Tucson, Arizona, has been the busiest corridor in recent months. It’s followed by San Diego in January.  But reasons for sudden shifts are often complicated and are dictated by smuggling organizations.

President Joe Biden visited the Rio Grande Valley for his second trip to the border as president last month. At that time administration officials credited Mexico for heightened enforcement on that part of the border for the drop in arrests. They said conditions were more challenging for Mexican law enforcement in Sonora, the state that lies south of Arizona.

Associated Press writers Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, Juan Lozano in Houston and Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

United States

Volunteers gather at Pedal and Pick at Jordan Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 20, 2024. P...

Mariah Maynes

How did April 22 become Earth Day?

20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day in 1970. Nowadays, the event is a global affair.

11 hours ago

us supreme court shown, court hearing case on ghost guns...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

Supreme Court will take up the legal fight over ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers

The Supreme Court had previously intervened to keep regulation for gun ghosts in effect during a legal fight over the rules.

20 hours ago

An image produced using optical microscopy shows Clostridium botulinum, an ingredient in Botox and ...

John Bonifield, CNN

Counterfeit, mishandled Botox injections linked to harmful reactions in nine states

Harmful reactions to botox have been reported in nine states.

20 hours ago

former president trump, hush money trial opening statement started monday...


Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

The opening statements in the hush money trial marked the first time that prosecutors have presented a criminal case against a former president to a jury.

20 hours ago

In this June 5, 2019, file photo, Morgan Wallen arrives at the CMT Music Awards on at the Bridgesto...

Associated Press

Recently arrested Morgan Wallen says he’s “not proud” of behavior

Country music star Morgan Wallen was charged with three felony counts of reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

2 days ago

Former Arkansas governor and U.S. Sen. David Pryor, a Democrat who was one of the state's most belo...

ANDREW DeMILLO Associated Press

David Pryor, former governor and senator of Arkansas, dies at age 89

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former Arkansas governor and U.S. Sen. David Pryor, a Democrat who was one of the state’s most beloved political figures and remained active in public service in the state long after he left office, has died. He was 89. Pryor, who went undercover to investigate nursing homes while a congressman, […]

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

Anticipation, anger on Texas border as immigration law again on hold