Local law enforcers question their role under SB4

HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) -- Local law enforcement officials are concerned for their officers after the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled to allow a controversial Texas immigration law to be implemented while a lawsuit to stop it plays out in court.

The Supreme Court ruled the new law, SB 4, can take effect while the merits of the lawsuit are still being argued before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court green lights Texas law that allows state police to arrest migrants

That means that any Texas peace officer can arrest a person they suspect of entering the country illegally and not through a U.S. port of entry.

It also means that state and municipal judges could rule to deport the migrants. And law enforcement could be the ones to physically drive the migrants to the border and tell them to walk across a bridge to Mexico, which said Tuesday it will not "under any circumstances" accept the return of any migrants to its territory from the state of Texas. Mexico is not required to accept deportations of anyone except Mexican citizens.

Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber, whose deputies patrol the Eagle Pass area, told Border Report that he does not have enough space in his jail to hold migrants.

Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber says he doesn't have jail space for migrants arrested under SB 4. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

"How are we going to do this? It's impossible" Schmerber said Tuesday after learning about the court's ruling.

Schmerber says he worries that peace officers could accidentally deport a U.S. citizen, or someone who is in immigration proceedings who gets picked up.

"What if we deport a U.S. citizen?" he said. "My deputies are not trained for immigration work."

Schmerber said he would advise his deputies not to drive migrants to a port of entry because he worries they could have an accident on the way.

"I don't recommend it. I would just call the Border Patrol to take them to the bridge," he said.

In El Paso, Mayor Oscar Leeser said enforcing immigration law is not a priority for local law enforcement.

"It is no secret that our Police Department is short staffed," Leeser said. "Our law enforcement responses are always priority-driven, and our number one priority has and will continue to be public health and safety, not enforcing immigration law .”

But Mexico’s government says it will not “under any circumstances” accept the return of any migrants to its territory from the state of Texas. Mexico is not required to accept deportations of anyone except Mexican citizens.

How Texas’ plans to arrest migrants for illegal entry would work if allowed to take effect

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said Tuesday's order "undermines" the Supreme Court, which likely will hear the case after the 5th Circuit rules.

"The Supreme Court has opted to allow for a trial run of a constitutional crisis," Castro said. "SB 4 is an alarming state overreach that will likely lead to massive civil rights violations across our state. At a time of rising anti-Hispanic violence, this law puts a target on the back of anyone perceived by law enforcement to look or sound like an immigrant."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Tuesday's ruling a "huge win."

"Texas has defeated the Biden Administration’s and ACLU’s emergency motions at the Supreme Court. Our immigration law, SB 4, is now in effect. As always, it’s my honor to defend Texas and its sovereignty, and to lead us to victory in court."

In a statement sent Tuesday, the ACLU said it will continue and are confident they will win the legal fight "to strike it down for good."

Another lawsuit challenges Texas’ SB4 immigration law

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) vowed to continue to fight against SB 4. The nonprofit, based in San Juan, Texas, last week filed a lawsuit against the law.

"Our commitment to justice and equality remains unwavering. We will not allow this setback to hinder our efforts to challenge the discriminatory nature of SB 4 and protect the rights of immigrant communities," LUPE Executive Director Tania Chavez Camacho said. "The fight against SB4 is far from over. We will continue to mobilize our community, engage in legal advocacy, and work tirelessly to dismantle the unjust provisions of this harmful law."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on his personal X feed acknowledged that the ruling is only temporary.

"We still have to have hearings in the 5th circuit federal court of appeals. But this is clearly a positive development," he said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.

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