Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday is expected to sign into law a measure allowing Texas law enforcement officials to arrest migrants who enter the state from Mexico without legal authorization, setting the stage for a potential showdown with the federal government over immigration enforcement powers.
Mr. Abbott pushed for the legislation, which passed in a special session of the Republican-dominated State Legislature last month over the strong objections of Democrats, immigrant rights groups and Hispanic organizations who argued that the measure violated the U.S. Constitution and would encourage racial profiling.
Some border sheriffs have also opposed the legislation, expressing concern that it could rapidly overwhelm the local jails and courts if even a fraction of those who come over the border every day were arrested. In just one section of the 1,254-mile Texas border with Mexico, around the cities of Eagle Pass and Del Rio, federal agents encountered 38,000 migrants in October.
The surge of migrants has become a political liability for President Biden, who has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for the record number of arrivals at the southern border under his watch.
In signing the law, Mr. Abbott, a third-term Republican, would take his most direct step yet in challenging the Biden administration over federal immigration policy, which is currently being negotiated between the president and Congress.
The Texas law would take effect in March and very likely wind through the courts in subsequent months, just as presidential and congressional campaigns intensify. Legal experts have said the legislation could create the opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit a 2012 case, Arizona v. United States, that was narrowly decided in favor of the power of the federal government to set immigration policy.
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