March 20, 2024

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Texas’s strict new immigration law, S.B. 4, is currently on hold after a roller-coster day of judicial proceedings that defies description. The main question at issue has been whether Texas can begin implementing the law while federal courts consider appeals.

Between December 18 and March 17Between March 18 and the morning of March 20
December 18, 2023: Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) signs S.B. 4 into law. It would go into force on March 5.

December 19: The ACLU, El Paso County, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and American Gateways sue to challenge the law.

– January 3, 2024: the Biden administration Justice Department sues to challenge S.B. 4. This suit and the ACLU suit are later combined.

February 29: U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra, a Reagan appointee, blocks S.B. 4’s implementation. Texas appeals.

March 3: The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to implement S.B. 4 while it considers Texas’s appeal. However, it delays implementation until March 10, to allow the Biden administration to ask the Supreme Court to rule whether the law may go into effect while appeals continue.

March 4: The Supreme Court keeps S.B. 4 on hold until March 13 while it decides how to proceed.

March 12: The Supreme Court extends its stay until 5:00PM Eastern on March 18.
March 18: just after 5:00PM, the Supreme Court keeps in place its hold on S.B. 4, without an end date.

– March 19: by a 6-3 decision, with its Republican-appointed majority of justices voting together, the Supreme Court allows S.B. 4 to go into effect while appeals continue.

– March 19: with a late-night order on a 2-1 vote, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals suspends implementation of S.B. 4 while deliberations continue.

– March 20: the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is to hear arguments about the stay of S.B. 4’s implementation.

– April 3: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is to hear arguments about the challenges to S.B. 4 that Judge Ezra upheld on February 29.

If it goes into effect, S.B. 4 would allow Texas state police and National Guard personnel to arrest people on suspicion of having migrated without authorization. Courts could then imprison defendants or deport them to Mexico. Rights advocates worry that this would allow Texas to carry out its own immigration enforcement—a federal responsibility—while upholding spurious claims that asylum seekers constitute an “invasion” and creating incentives for racial profiling throughout the state.

A dissent yesterday from Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson warned that the law “will disrupt sensitive foreign relations, frustrate the protection of indi­viduals fleeing persecution, hamper active federal enforce­ment efforts, undermine federal agencies’ ability to detect and monitor imminent security threats, and deter noncitizens from reporting abuse or trafficking.”

After the Supreme Court’s decision allowing S.B. 4 to go ahead, Mexico’s government issued a strongly worded statement refusing to receive migrants deported by Texas state authorities. “We fundamentally disagree with the Supreme Court’s order allowing Texas’ harmful and unconstitutional law to go into effect,” read a White House statement.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Lighthouse Media, El Paso Matters, and La Verdad de Juárez published a detailed investigation and a 16-minute video about the March 2023 Ciudad Juárez migrant detention facility fire that killed 40 people whom migration authorities had locked inside. The report highlighted glaring safety failures and Mexican authorities’ likely criminal behavior. It is based on newly revealed security footage, court documents, and survivor interviews. The report notes that a year later, Francisco Garduño, the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), remains in his post.

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