News » President and the Department of Justice Must Take Action to Stop New Unconstitutional Immigration Measures in Texas

President and the Department of Justice Must Take Action to Stop New Unconstitutional Immigration Measures in Texas

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Dec 19, 2023

The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign demands the federal government, including President Biden and the Department of Justice, intervene in Texas after Governor Greg Abbott signed two new extreme, anti-immigrant bills into law that take unconstitutional steps to criminalize seeking safety in this country and terrorize communities of color. These laws are an extension of the egregious immigration policy Gov. Abbott has dubbed “Operation Lone Star” and serve as his and the Texas legislature’s latest attempt to override federal immigration law – this time by giving untrained officials authority to determine immigration status without due process.

At a moment when politicians are attempting to enact inhumane anti-immigrant proposals across the country, and Congress is negotiating away immigrant rights, we need to stand up for our values as a country. We urge our elected officials to defend the rights to seek safety and live in safety for all.

Imitating prior “show me your papers” laws, Texas’ SB3 and SB4 target Black and Brown communities and seek to spread fear and division, creating a less safe environment for all. They also make crossing into the country anywhere other than a port of entry a state crime and give local and state law enforcement officers and judges sweeping authority to arrest, prosecute and deport anyone they suspect of crossing into Texas from Mexico. This directly contradicts the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Arizona v. U.S.which states only the federal government can arrest someone solely based on their immigration status, not states.  

The President and his administration must take legal action immediately to halt these unconstitutional measures. These are not the values America was built on or stands for. 

“President Biden promised to restore the soul of the country. However, when it comes to protecting the rights of immigrants and communities of color, the President has fallen drastically short. The Biden administration has an opportunity to correct course – it can take legal action to stop Operation Lone Star and can reject Congressional efforts to ram through extreme anti-immigrant proposals,” said Melina Roche, #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Manager. “As a woman of color, I cannot stress enough how harmful this bill and proposals will be to our communities. As an American, I implore the President to take action. Any agenda that purposely harms communities of color and those seeking safety from persecution must be rejected.”

“Governor Abbott’s draconian and racist  ‘show me your papers’ type law is a direct assault on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and will encourage law enforcement to further target people simply because of the color of their skin,” said Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “These laws do nothing to address the underlying causes of migration and will only serve as a waste of taxpayer dollars to instill fear and create chaos. It is simply unconscionable, and the Biden administration must intervene to protect the very communities that elected him.”

“For months, the Young Center has been sounding the alarm about the deeply disturbing consequences of SB4 and the ways this law will violate children’s rights to safety, family unity, and protection,” said Alexis Bay, Health Justice Legal Fellow at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “Already children are facing enormous burdens and barriers in accessing ports of entry along the border to seek safety in the U.S, as well as an asylum ban that expedites the deportation of children and families seeking asylum. Now, Texas seeks to exacerbate these conditions for asylum seekers by targeting anyone who enters the state between ports of entry for possible arrest, deportation, and even permanent separation from their families rather than ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all children. We urge the Biden Administration to immediately intervene and legally challenge SB4 in the courts. Anything short of the federal government’s immediate action to stop SB4 and keep families together is condoning the wide scale abuse and harm that will inevitably ensue from this law.” 

“SB 4 is inhumane, immoral and unconstitutional. Its only aim is to criminalize people seeking safety at the border and instill fear in families throughout Texas,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. “The day it eventually goes into effect, it will disastrously make every Texan less safe by eroding fundamental community trust, including with law enforcement. The Biden administration needs to take immediate action to stop this and every action being taken by Governor Abbott to weaponize our border and cynically deploy our peace officers against the vulnerable.”

“As a native of the Texas that was once Mexico, I am deeply ashamed of what SB 4 will do to the people of this great state.  This is yet another attempt to silence the multiracial community that calls Texas home. The racial profiling and anti-immigrant sentiment is a recipe for disaster when paired with Texas’ lax gun laws and dangerous rhetoric spewed by the bill’s authors and the governor. As Texans, we know what this can mean,” said Marisa Limón Garza Executive Director at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. “Mothers and fathers in Uvalde live this reality every day just like the families of the deceased and the survivors following the El Paso mass shooting. It’s abundantly clear that every effort made by Governor Abbott aims to marginalize and erase, whether stripping reproductive freedoms, harassing transgender people, banning books in our schools, undermining voting rights, muzzling DEI and free inquiry at public universities, and accusing the Good Samaritans among us of smuggling immigrants. These laws are not in line with real Texas values and the Department of Justice must take swift action to protect the good people of this state – the documented and undocumented alike.”

“People fleeing persecution have a legal right to seek asylum, no matter how they reach our border,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “SB4 will punish them for exercising that right, allowing state law enforcement to arrest and imprison vulnerable families, children, and adults. If implemented, these laws will traumatize refugee children, separate families, and endanger the lives of people seeking safety. They will also enable racial profiling and disparately impact Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities in Texas. We urge the Biden administration to step in.”

“HIAS condemns the signing of SB3 and SB4 from the Texas Governor,” says Vanessa Dojaquez-Torres, HIAS policy counsel. “While these laws will not affect the number of people seeking safety in the United States, they will send shock waves of fear throughout the state of Texas. HIAS calls on President Biden and the Department of Justice to challenge these laws. In a time when our country is divided over many issues, we must stand united on rejecting measures that put both migrants and communities in danger. These policies will not control migration along the U.S. southern border, but they will make it more dangerous. As a global leader, the U.S. can and must do better.” 

“Gov. Abbott and extremist politicians have injected a vicious and failed agenda to militarize the southern border, criminalize communities of color, and grant the State of Texas unprecedented authority to enforce federal immigration law. An agenda that is fueled by white supremacy, dehumanizing rhetoric, xenophobia, racism, and unfounded claims about the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the border,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). “Instead of listening to the voices of those living at the border and those at the forefront of the humanitarian crisis, extremist politicians have chosen to rely on anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and inadequate deterrence policies. SB 4 will only further increase the human and civil rights violations currently being committed and drive hundreds of mixed-status families, Texans of color, immigrants and refugees further into the shadows. We urge our Federal government to act now!” 

“For years, we have witnessed Governor Greg Abbott’s vicious and increasing attempts to militarize the Southern border and criminalize communities of color in Texas,” said Victoria Neilson, Supervising Attorney at the National Immigration Project. “SB 4 will only feed into this agenda, further eroding the safety of all Texans and traumatizing people seeking safety at our border. President Biden and the Department of Justice must take immediate action to halt this unconstitutional and blatant overstepping of federal law.”

“Texas continues to defy the Constitution of the United States by passing anti-immigrant and anti-asylum policies. States do not have the authority to regulate immigration law,” said Margaret Cargioli, Directing Attorney of Policy and Advocacy at Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “SB4 will punish people for exercising their legal right to seek asylum while leading Texas state police to racially profile and arrest adults, children, and vulnerable families. Even United States citizens residing in Texas may be targeted by this backwards law. Laws that seek to swiftly deport immigrants without due process tear families and communities apart. We urge the Biden administration to take immediate actions to stop Texas’s unlawful SB4 from being enforced.”

“For Governor Abbott to turn his back on the proud tradition of welcoming the stranger—a move designed only to solidify his political credentials—not only contradicts his state’s history of being inclusive, but federal law and the Constitution. People from around the world have sought the United States, and Texas, as a place of refuge, a place where they could let their children grow in peace, where they could start businesses, be neighbors and community members. These laws will only ostracize those seeking safety, undermine our cities and betray our commitment to building a better world,” said Danilo Zak, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “Sadly, beyond the terrible damage this law will have on those who are displaced, this will happen at the expense of American communities. Congress and the Biden administration continue to barter for a legislative deal that would offer draconian asylum restrictions for unrelated foreign spending. It is imperative that the administration intervenes, both by taking legal action to halt Abbott’s unconstitutional border laws and by refusing to engage in any negotiations that would treat asylum seekers as political bargaining chips.”

“The new Texas laws empower vigilantes, escalate dangers for citizens and residents and threaten to trample on the civil rights of every Texan or tourist, specifically non-white Texans who make up the majority of the state,” said Douglas Rivlin, Senior Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “Under Governor Abbott, Texas has become ground zero for some of the most cruel, callous and wasteful immigration policies we’ve seen. The new ‘show me your papers” legislation only ups the ante. Bottom line: every single Texan better be prepared to show proof of citizenship when they leave the house, especially if they have dark skin or speak with an accent. The state is opening the door to more chaos and cruelty while thumbing its nose at the Constitution and federal powers.”

“Attempts in Texas to criminalize the act of seeking protection at our border should be called out for what they are – acts of violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities,” said Jill Marie BusseyDirector of Public Policy at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “These laws, which follow a series of efforts from the state to infringe on the federal government’s authority to oversee immigration, should be met with swift legal action by the Biden administration. Anything less than a robust assertion of the federal government’s well-established legal authority and our commitment to uphold humanitarian values globally would inspire additional extremist attempts to dehumanize and penalize people who are fleeing state-sponsored violence and other dangerous circumstances.”

“It is unfortunate and tragic that the Governor of Texas is leading his great state away from welcoming the stranger, with the signing of SB3 and SB4,” said Pablo DeJesús, Executive Director of Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice. “We will follow our Unitarian Universalist partners and allies in Texas and continue to oppose these bills, now laws. Making immigration and migration to the U.S. a state crime in Texas will not address, or mitigate, the root causes of migration. It will simply increase the danger for communities along our southern border. This maneuver likely oversteps the purview of states on the matter of immigration, under the U.S. Constitution. The administration must uphold U.S. responsibilities under international law and our Constitution for immigration. We therefore call on President Biden to oppose these measures with every tool available to his Department of Justice, as well as his bully pulpit.”

“Abbott’s recent anti-immigrant legislation in Texas, SB3 and SB4, is not just deeply alarming; it’s an outright assault on the core values of justice and humanity. Spending over a billion dollars on SB3 for border barriers and targeted patrols is a gross misuse of taxpayer money, funneling resources into fear-mongering and division, rather than fostering community building and genuine public safety. The legislation also endangers long-established migrant communities in Texas, placing them in the crosshairs of racial profiling and the threat of unwarranted deportation. These laws, by undermining the rights of those seeking safety and blatantly disregarding the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration matters, represent a draconian step backwards,” said Priscilla Orta, Supervising Attorney, Project Corazon, Lawyers for Good Government. “These measures will intensify the existing climate of fear and vulnerability, making it nearly impossible for victims of state violence or those escaping persecution for their identity to find refuge. It is legally and morally imperative that the Biden administration and the Department of Justice take decisive action against these unconstitutional measures as a step toward defending the principles of asylum that our country has promised to uphold. We cannot allow such egregious violations of human rights to stand in Texas or anywhere in the nation.”

“Governor Abbot’s attempt to criminalize the act of seeking asylum is not only illegal and unconstitutional, it will sow chaos and fear at the border and beyond,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “These Texas laws are a political act that will undermine not only U.S. laws and values, they will punish and lead to unspeakable harm and insecurity for the people who have made the impossible choice to flee their homes in search of safety. At the same time as we call on Congress and the administration to abandon efforts on draconian anti-asylum and immigration measures, we also call on the Biden administration to challenge the Texas government’s attacks on the right to seek asylum.”

“In the face of Texas’ regressive and discriminatory immigration laws, We Are All America vehemently opposes Governor Abbott’s attempt to erode the rights of those seeking safety in our country,” said Fatima Saidi, We Are All America’s Campaign Director. “SB3 and SB4, born out of ‘Operation Lone Star,’ not only violate constitutional principles but also exacerbate the climate of fear and division targeting Black and Brown communities. By criminalizing entry anywhere other than a designated port, these bills not only defy the Supreme Court’s precedent but also undermine the fundamental values of compassion and justice. We urgently call on President Biden and the Department of Justice to intervene, safeguarding the rights of those who seek safety and a chance at a better life on American soil.”

“The Tahirih Justice Center is dismayed by the recent Texas legislation that targets immigrants, people seeking asylum, and Texans of color for arrest, deportation, and further criminalization. These new laws – SB4 from the 3rd Special Session adding a penalty enhancement for smuggling, and SB3 and SB4 from the 4th Special Session, on appropriations and unlawful entry, perpetuate racist and xenophobic narratives about immigrants,” said Katharina Dechert, Tahirih Justice Center Houston Policy and Advocacy Manager. “These laws will also have a devastating and disproportionate impact on immigrant survivors of gender-based violence by cutting off access to the U.S. asylum system, enabling law enforcement officers to deport survivors of crime rather than provide assistance, and creating conditions in which immigrants are increasingly vulnerable to violence. Texas and the United States have a legal and moral obligation to protect all asylum seekers and immigrants, particularly women, children, and all who experience gender-based violence, from further harm.”