Texas v. Biden Immigration Clash: Policy Standoff and Legal Implications

Social Justice Policy Brief #156 | By: Arvind Salem| February 21, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.slate.com

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With the recent impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas, immigration has emerged as a main issue in the political landscape leading up to the 2024 election. Republicans have increasingly attacked President Biden for his perceived lax immigration policy, and Texas has decided to take immigration enforcement in their own hands.

This dispute has manifested in two main policies that have been recently brought to court: Wire Fencing and Texas SB 4. Texas strategically placed fencing on private property on a stretch of the Rio Grande River and is suing federal agents for attempting to remove that wire. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, allowed the federal agents to cut through that wire in enforcing federal immigration law.

Yet the higher profile of these two is Texas SB 4, which makes illegally entering Texas a state crime. This allows state law enforcement to arrest and prosecute illegal immigrants and allows state judges to deport migrants with no federal oversight. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, supported by 25 other Republican Governors, is attempting to restrict immigration through state law and trying to circumvent federal law by doing this, which he believes is justified as the level of illegal immigration constitutes an invasion that merits invoking the state’s right to self-defense.

Policy Analysis:

In terms of immigration, Biden has been extremely active, undertaking 535 immigration actions over his first three years, which is more than Trump in his four. Some of Biden’s key policies include taking in more refugees, with refugee admissions on pace to reach the highs of 30 years ago. However, there is still an undeniable problem at the Southern border, with many unauthorized immigrants attempting to enter the country.

To combat the problem, President Biden implemented policies that incentivized entering the United States through ports of entry (which makes migrants easier to process than if they enter through more irregular areas). The administration is also attempting to leverage partnerships in  Latin America and the Caribbean to disincentivize flooding the U.S.-Mexico border and instead encourage migrants to apply lawfully from their home country. This has been accomplished by opening  Safe Mobility Offices (SMOs) opened in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala and run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Yet, due to various global factors including wars, political instability, and pandemic-related economic downturns, the United States is an increasingly attractive option for many migrants, which is clearly reflected by the growing number of migrants attempting to gain entry into the United States. Therefore, immigration still remains as a key fault line in 2024 and an election-year vulnerability for President Biden.

Likely recognizing this, Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole have recently shifted to rhetoric mimicking Republicans, arguing that they too can be tough on the border when necessary, alienating many immigration activists that were pivotal in 2020, but picking up support among moderate voters. Democrat Tom Suozzi, who won the special election for the House of Representatives in NY-03 after Santos was removed, is an example of a Democrat having tough positions on border security that are traditionally more associated with Republicans. With Suozzi’s success, Democrats are likely making the political calculation that it is worth it to support tighter immigration policy, since concerns on the border are so widely held in the public as it seizes center stage in today’s political landscape.

Meanwhile, the fight that Texas is waging with the Biden administration on immigration policy likely has broader implications on the delicate balance between states and the federal government. In particular, if Texas is allowed to have its own set of laws on immigration, there is nothing stopping them from having their own set of policies in other areas. For example, it could pave the way for state overreach into other federal domains such as environmental regulation, which could create a dangerous patchwork of legislation.

Engagement Resources:
  • FAIR: FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is a nonpartisan, public-interest organization that seeks to evaluate policies and develop solutions to reduce the impact of excessive immigration on all facets of the nation including security, the economy, and healthcare. Readers who want to help further immigration reforms through a nonpartisan organization may be interested in contributing to this organization.
  • American Immigration Council: The American Immigration Council works to ensure due process for all immigrants by increasing access to legal counsel for immigrants and using the legal system to ensure fair treatment for immigrants. The American Immigration Council also aims to educate the public and use communications strategies to spread awareness about the importance of immigrants to the United States. Readers who want to help more immigrants receive access to legal counsel regardless of the political climate may be interested in contributing to this organization.
  • ACLU: The ACLU, the Americans Civil Liberties Union, is an organization that works to protect the freedoms of Americans across a wide range of issues, including voting rights, free speech, and racial justice. One of the issues they address is immigration, helping ensure that immigrants receive the legal protections that they are entitled to. Readers who want to help ensure that immigrants receive fundamental constitutional protections that they are entitled to may be interested in contributing to this organization.

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