In suspense, future of migrants in Texas: US Court keeps immigration law SB4 on hold

NEW ORLEANS. — A federal appeals court has ordered to hold in abeyance the Texas law that allows the state detain and deport migrants suspected of entering the United States illegally.

The order issued Tuesday night by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed a March 20 hearing by the court's three-judge panel. It is the latest step in a long legal battle that is not yet over.

The Justice Department alleged that the Texas law is a clear violation of federal authority and would cause the chaos at the border. Texas maintains that President Joe Biden's administration is not doing enough to control the border and that state authorities have the right to take action.

The rule was in effect for a few hours on March 19, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for its entry into force. But the high court did not rule on the merits of the case and returned it to the 5th Circuit, which suspended its application while the last appeal was studied.

Tuesday's ruling reiterates the suspension.

What does the anti-immigrant law SB4 allow?

The law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott, allows any law enforcement officer in the state to arrest people suspected of having entered the country illegally. Once detained, migrants can accept a judge's order to leave the country or be prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge of illegal entry. Those who do not leave the country could be arrested again for a more serious crime..

Texas announced no arrests during the brief period the rule was in effect. Authorities have offered several explanations about how the rule could be applied. Mexico, for its part, said it will refuse to receive anyone who has been deported based on that rule.

Critics call the rule the state's most drastic attempt to control immigration since a law passed by Arizona more than a decade ago that was partially struck down by the Supreme Court. In addition, they maintain that the Texas initiative could lead to civil rights violations and racial persecution.

Supporters, for their part, have rejected those concerns, arguing that officers must have probable cause for arrests, which could include having witnessed the break-in or seen it on video. They also expect the law to be used especially in border counties, although it would apply statewide.