The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Civil Rights Organizations Sue to Block Texas from Enacting Extremist Immigration Law


The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a lawsuit today challenging Texas Senate Bill 4, which would permit local and state law enforcement to arrest and detain people they suspect to have entered Texas from another country without federal authorization.

It also will authorize Texas judges — who are not trained in immigration law and have no proper authority to enforce it — to order a person’s deportation without due process and before they have an opportunity to seek humanitarian protection.

The lawsuit states that S.B. 4 is unconstitutional, arguing that the law is preempted by federal law. The plaintiffs challenging the law are Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and the County of El Paso, Texas. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law Monday. If it is not blocked by the courts, it will go into effect on March 5, 2024.

“Governor Abbott’s efforts to circumvent the federal immigration system and deny people the right to due process is not only unconstitutional, but also dangerously prone to error, and will disproportionately harm Black and Brown people regardless of their immigration status,” said Anand Balakrishnan, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We’re using every tool at our disposal, including litigation, to stop this egregious law from going into effect.”

Advocates have warned that the law will separate families and will directly lead to racial profiling, subjecting thousands of Black and Brown Texans to the state prison system which is already rife with civil rights abuses. The complaint argues that the law violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. The law bypasses federal law as Texas judges would be authorized — and in some cases, required — to order a person’s deportation regardless of whether a person is eligible to seek asylum or other humanitarian protections under federal law. Enforcement of the law isn’t limited to border communities, meaning Texans across the state would be at risk of arrest, jailing, and deportation.

“We’re suing to block one of the most extreme anti-immigrant bills in the country,” said Adriana Piñon, legal director of the ACLU of Texas. “The bill overrides bedrock constitutional principles and flouts federal immigration law while harming Texans, in particular Brown and Black communities. Time and time again, elected officials in Texas have ignored their constituents and opted for white supremacist rhetoric and mass incarceration instead. The state wastes billions of taxpayer dollars on failed border policies and policing that we could spend on education, better infrastructure, and better health care. Texans deserve better and we’re holding Texas politicians accountable to make sure this law never goes into effect.”

The legislation is the latest extremist anti-immigrant policy to be passed in the state of Texas. Earlier this month, legislators passed a bill that will give Gov. Abbott an additional $1.5 billion in tax dollars to use at his discretion for border-related operations, including the funding of a border wall and more razor wire and floating barriers in the Rio Grande.

Already, advocates in Texas and in neighboring and border states — including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma — have issued a travel advisory warning residents about the threat of civil and constitutional rights violations when traveling in the state of Texas because of laws like S.B. 4.

“We have sued to block Senate Bill 4 because it will have a devastating impact on people seeking safety at our borders and Texans throughout the state,” said Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “This law blatantly disregards people’s right to due process and will allow Texas law enforcement to funnel family, friends, and loved ones into the deportation pipeline. S.B. 4 is unconstitutional — Texas does not have the power to implement its own immigration laws. We will not let this stand.”

The complaint is available here.

Access video statement from Adriana Piñon in English and Spanish here.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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