Borders and Legal Battles: Texas vs the Federal Government Over Immigration and Border Security
Illegal immigration remains one of the top political issues for many Americans. Prompting many to wonder about the balance of power between the state and the federal government.
As the migrant crisis rapidly grew, many of the border states found themselves struggling to manage the sheer number of migrants illegally crossing the U.S. border. In response to this crisis and to what is seen as inaction on the part of the federal government, states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida began busing migrants to different parts of the country, primarily to cities that have maintained themselves as “sanctuary cities'' for migrants regardless of the legality of how they arrived in the U.S. This busing strategy has continued today as cities like New York struggle with handling the mass influx of migrants.
Frustrated with what they saw as the federal government failing in its duties, Texas and Arizona have launched their lawsuits and have, in turn, been sued by the federal government for immigration enforcement policies that the federal government claims go beyond state authority. These legal battles, specifically over immigration, have been ever-present since 2012.
The reality on the ground
What happens when a migrant crosses the border illegally? First, they are apprehended by authorities and are taken for initial processing; this is what we see when border patrol agents allow or assist migrants in crawling under or over barriers instead of stopping migrants from crossing; border patrol only has the authority to apprehend migrants who cross, not to prevent them from physically crossing. When taken to detention facilities, the length of time they spend varies. Some wait up to a year or more, while others are released into the U.S. with the understanding that they will be present for their court date, which is often scheduled a year or more out. Asylum declaration adds another layer to this process as one can claim they are in fear for their life and, over a period, will be screened and interviewed about their claims. However, migrants who seek asylum are released by federal authorities while their asylum request is pending. This system may be able to handle small numbers of migrants, but with thousands of people crossing the border, the current system is overwhelmed.
The Legal Battle
Texas has sued the federal government over removing sections of the Texas border barrier. Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit contends that the Biden administration's dismantling of the Texas border barrier infringes upon the state's rights. Attorney General Paxton has appealed to a federal judge's decision that ruled in favor of the federal government. On January 3rd, The Department of Justice (DOJ) launched its lawsuit against Texas under the Biden administration. The federal lawsuit challenges Texas' new border security law, which allows Texas authorities to arrest or detain anyone suspected of illegally crossing the U.S. border. In their lawsuit, the DOJ cites the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This clause establishes federal laws as the supreme law of the land, raising questions about the limits of state authority in matters that intersect with federal jurisdiction and policy. The Biden administration also argues that states do not have the right to establish their own immigration policy and enforcement.
Controlling borders, particularly in immigration and international travel, is primarily considered a federal responsibility in the United States. The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government the authority to regulate immigration and establish laws related to naturalization. Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution states that Congress can "establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization." While the federal government maintains authority over immigration policy, states have a role in certain aspects of border enforcement within their jurisdictions. States can collaborate with federal authorities, such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to address specific concerns related to border security. However, this collaboration is typically coordinated with federal agencies rather than through independent state action. States may enact laws and policies that indirectly affect immigration enforcement, such as laws related to law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities or providing social services to undocumented immigrants. However, these state laws must not conflict with federal immigration laws or impede the federal government's ability to enforce its policies.
Who is in the Right?
This question is intricate and frequently hinges on whether your perspective aligns more with the emphasis on state sovereignty or if you lean toward a federalist viewpoint when considering our Republic. Indeed, the Constitution clearly states that the federal government retains all control over border management and immigration policies. That cannot be ignored or denied; however, if a state has determined that the federal government has failed in its duties or is negligent to problems that a state faces due to national policy, does it not have the right to challenge it?
Both sides will draw on Constitutional arguments and historical precedents to support their positions in court. The resolution of these disputes will depend on how courts interpret the balance of powers between the federal government and the states in the specific context of immigration enforcement and border control.
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