It’s Not Just Texas: More States Want Power to Wage ‘War’ on Migrants | National

Nearly 200 National Guard troops and state police officers from Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska are preparing to deploy to the southern Texas border amid a bitter partisan battle for control of immigration is raging and the border itself is becoming more and more militarized. According to Newsweek, at least 14 states have sent troops since 2021, all on orders from Republican governors.

As The Marshall Project reports, the personnel were sent to assist with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, an effort to control the border with state resources on the premise that the federal government does not failed to do so effectively. The plan called for the deployment of thousands of National Guardsmen, the erection of floating fences and concertina barbed wire, and approximately 40,000 criminal arrests (primarily for trespassing on private property). It also created an ongoing standoff with federal agents at a heavily trafficked crossing at Eagle Pass, about two hours southwest of San Antonio.

Texas and the federal government also clash in the courts, where in late March the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals froze a law signed by Abbott that would make it a state crime to cross the border illegally. If it were to take effect, SB 4 would significantly expand the state’s legal authority to criminally prosecute migrants, essentially creating a parallel immigration legal system, complete with Texas-managed deportations. Even the very conservative Fifth Circuit has been reluctant to overturn the broad body of law that delegates sole immigration control powers to the federal government.

“For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration – the entry, admission and removal of noncitizens – is an exclusively federal power,” wrote Chief Justice Priscilla Richman .

The Fifth Circuit heard more discussion of the law last month, but has not yet issued an additional ruling. Most observers, including Abbott himself, expect the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the Texas law.

The rapid evolution of the state of the law – at the end of March, different courts resumed and suspended its application within a few hours – has plunged many migrants and lawyers into confusion. Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America, a nonprofit human rights organization, told the New York Times that even if it is not enforced , the law encourages some migrants to attempt to cross the southern border into other states. Other experts note that Mexican authorities are changing their enforcement strategies, which could also have the effect of pushing down Texas border crossings.

Overall, clashes with the U.S. Border Patrol declined across the country in February, but the situation remains dire and chaotic. Nine migrants were charged with crimes, including “inciting a riot,” in March after a group overwhelmed guards and broke through barriers.

One of Texas’ legal arguments in favor of SB 4 hinges on the idea that the nation is being “overrun” by migrants, giving the state the power to “engage in war.” Writing for Lawfare this week, Ilya Somin argues that this reading flies in the face of the Constitution. It is still a framing that has gained ground. At least seven Republican-controlled states have passed or are attempting to pass laws similar to SB 4, and many lawmakers have called it an “invasion.”

Additionally, Tennessee and Georgia both passed related bills in March, strengthening requirements for local police to notify federal immigration agents about undocumented people. Proponents of the Georgia law say these efforts were prompted by the death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student who was killed while jogging in February. Authorities said Jose Antonio Ibarra, charged with Riley’s murder, is a Venezuelan asylum seeker who had previously been arrested and released in New York and Georgia.

Riley’s death was quickly turned into political fodder for conservatives, who blame President Joe Biden’s border policies for triggering a “catastrophic wave of violent crime.”

In The 19th in March, Mel Leonor Barclay and Barbara Rodriguez said that “broadly portraying immigrant men as dangerous alongside images of young white women as victims” is an old political strategy. Although individual cases can be gruesome and evocative, data suggests that fewer undocumented immigrants are convicted of murder than native-born Americans. More generally, an analysis by the Marshall Project found that immigration has not increased crime rates for various offenses.

Americans are increasingly concerned about immigrants — legal and illegal — committing crimes, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released March 28. The same poll found that “a significant share of American adults believe that immigrants contribute to the country’s economic growth and make important contributions to American culture.”

This national tension is playing out in Fremont, Nebraska. An influx of (often undocumented) migrants has kept the city’s three meat-packing plants operating, as younger U.S.-born residents have left for better-paying, less dangerous work. But the city also has a 15-year-old law requiring anyone renting property to sign a declaration that they are legally present in the United States.

And in Baltimore, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26 tragically reminds us of the role of immigrant labor in the American economy. The six people who died in the collapse were migrants from Latin America who were carrying out road maintenance on the bridge.

“The kind of work he did is what people born in the United States don’t do,” a family member of one of the men told the Washington Post. “People like him travel there with a dream. They don’t want to break anything or take anything.”

This story was produced by The Marshall Projecta nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and maintain a sense of national emergency regarding America’s criminal justice system, and edited and distributed by Stacker Media.