Texas Governor Greg Abbott has enacted legislation permitting state law enforcement officials to detain individuals suspected of unauthorized entry across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Under Senate Bill 4, individuals who enter or attempt to enter Texas from a foreign nation at any location other than a lawful port of entry, and who are classified as aliens as per federal law, would be committing a Class B misdemeanor.
This offense can lead to up to 180 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,000. The bill elevates this to a state-jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail and an optional fine of up to $10,000, if the individual has been previously convicted of illegal entry from a foreign nation.
Additionally, SB4 specifies that a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $4,000, would be applicable if an individual enters, attempts to enter, or is found in the state after being denied admission to, excluded, deported, or removed from the United States.
Moreover, if the person had departed from the United States while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal was outstanding, they would also be subject to this misdemeanor as well.
In cases of illegal reentry, the offense becomes a third-degree felony, involving two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000, under certain conditions. This escalates to a second-degree felony, with a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000, if the individual was removed following a felony conviction.
The bill also includes provisions to issue orders requiring individuals arrested for these offenses to return to their country of origin. These orders can be issued instead of continuing prosecution or entering an adjudication, and are contingent on various factors, including the individual’s agreement and lack of prior convictions related to illegal entry or reentry.
Furthermore, inmates serving sentences for illegal reentry or refusal to comply with an order to return to their nation of origin are ineligible for release on parole or to mandatory supervision.
The legislation represents the aggressive shift in Texas’ approach on border security under the Biden administration. Earlier this month Abbott announced the series of sweeping measures geared towards curbing the record flow of illegal aliens coming across the southern border. Abbott told Fox News that he would be enacting new border control measures almost immediately.
“Well, I’ll tell you a couple of things very interesting. For one, the problem is extraordinarily bad. The numbers are high and that is because Joe Biden continues to lay out the welcome mat, welcoming illegal immigrants into the United States of America,” Abbott said.
In terms of liability and indemnification, SB4 provides immunity for state or local government officials, employees, or contractors from liability for damages arising from actions taken to enforce the bill’s provisions. The state and local governments are also required to indemnify these individuals for damages arising from federal law-related actions.