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Biden And Red States on Collision Course over Immigration Course Heading to Supreme Court

The Biden administration is currently waging a legal campaign against Republican-led states, arguing their laws that effectively restrict illegal immigration are unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice has so far filed lawsuits against three different states for enacting laws that largely empower police to enforce immigration rules. However, these state leaders, in the backdrop of an unprecedented border crisis, say they have no choice but to take up the issue themselves because the Biden administration won’t — and other Republican states may soon follow suit.

Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma have all signed similar bills into law in recent months that make it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant. Texas Senate Bill 4, Iowa Senate File 2340, and Oklahoma House Bill 4156 empower their law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants and bestow various penalties for unlawful presence in the country.

“Due to the abdication of this administration’s duty to enforce the law, states are trying to protect themselves,” Matt Crapo, a senior attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, explained to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They are trying to do so by mirroring federal law, enforcing the same type of laws if this administration was enforcing the law.”

The Biden administration, however, argues these laws are unconstitutional as they intrude on the federal government’s sole authority to enforce immigration law.

Whether or not these states can enforce their laws will likely depend on the Supreme Court. The law passed in Texas, the first of the three to take up this approach, will likely end up back into the nation’s highest court.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute, a legal organization that supports stricter immigration enforcement, filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Texas SB4. Crapo said his organization plans to file similar briefs supporting the Iowa and Oklahoma bills once those states file in opposition to preliminary injunctions imposed by federal courts.

IRLI argued in its Texas brief that, while SB4 “parallels” similar federal immigration offenses, the law does not interfere with the federal government’s power to decide which classes of aliens are admissible or removable.

However, not all legal experts agree the Texas law adheres to the Constitution.

“SB4 is cruel, inhumane, and clearly unconstitutional,” Kate Melloy Goettel, senior legal director at the American Immigration Council, said in March statement. “All these bills could result in significant civil rights abuses, leading to widespread arrests and deportations by state actors without key federal protections.”

“Our hope is that SB4 is ultimately blocked in court; otherwise, this sets a disastrous precedent,” Goettel continued.

Immigration experts aren’t sure how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule.

“It’s sort of an open question as to whether the Supreme Court is going to allow Texas to criminalize illegal entry into Texas,” Art Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies said to the DCNF, noting how this case is fundamentally different than the lawsuit against a 2010 Arizona law that criminalized illegal immigration status, but was largely struck down. “Texas’ argument is ‘look, the federal government doesn’t completely occupy the field with respect to this crime because trespassing is an essential state crime and this is basically a trespassing offense.’”

Arthur noted that the Texas legislation is fundamentally different to the Iowa and Oklahoma laws, meaning potentially very different outcomes in their court challenges. Unlike Oklahoma and Iowa, Texas borders Mexico and has more standing to enforce trespassing.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in SB4 will give us a lot of idea of how much vitality these other laws have, but these other laws are distinguishable from SB4,” he said. “For that reason, if the states are serious about this, they will have to litigate it all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Similar to what sponsors of this legislation have argued, Arthur said that the passages of these state laws are not “political stunts,” but cries for help and assertions that the Biden administration has abandoned immigration enforcement.

Federal immigration data show that illegal immigration is at historic levels.

Border Patrol agents have had more than 1,171,000 encounters with illegal immigrants this fiscal year, according to the latest data by Customs and Border Protection. Well over six million such encounters have been made since the beginning of President Joe Biden’s White House tenure.

The massive influx of illegal immigrants has been followed by high-profile crimes, such as the killing of a Georgia nursing student allegedly at the hands of a Venezuelan illegal immigrant and the attempted breach of the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia allegedly by two Jordanian nationals living unlawfully in the country. A report by a New Jersey lawmaker found that his state is shelling out over $7 billion annually to cover the costs of illegal immigrants.

For these reasons, Republican state leaders say they have no choice but to address the crisis themselves — even if the Biden administration threatens to sue them for it.

“The Biden administration refuses to do their job, so we need to do it,” Louisiana state senator Valarie Hodges said to the DCNF. Hodges is the sponsor of a bill that, if signed into law, will also make illegal immigration a state crime.

Her legislation, Senate Bill 388, makes illegal entry punishable by up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine for the first offense, and up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a second offense. The bill has already passed both chambers in the state legislature, and needs procedural approval from the state senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

Much like the governors and attorneys general of the states already sued by the Department of Justice, the state senator appeared unfazed at the prospect of a court challenge.

“When the federal government won’t do their job, what course do we have?” Hodges asked. “We’re going to collapse if we don’t do something. I believe we are within our constitutional boundaries to do this.”

“Maybe we should sue them for not doing their job,” she added.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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