Texas SB4 Reinstated, Blocked In Less Than 24 Hours

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a split decision on Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4), with two judges voting to block SB4 and one judge voting in for its enforcement.

SB4, signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, aims to empower state authorities in arresting and prosecuting immigrants suspected of illegally crossing the Mexican border.

It requires local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration laws, including honoring ICE detainer requests to hold individuals suspected of entering the country illegally. SB4 also empowers police officers to inquire about the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested and imposes stiff penalties on those who do not comply, including fines and jail time.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed SB4 to take effect. However, just a few hours later, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order pausing the law’s enforcement. Now, law enforcement officers are facing conflicting signals: the Supreme Court’s green light versus the 5th Circuit Court’s red light.

The 5th Circuit Court’s decision was split, with Judges Priscilla Richman and Irma Carillo Ramirez voting to block SB4, while Judge Andre Oldham favored its enforcement. Notably, Richman and Oldham are both Republicans appointees, which Ramirez was appointed by President Biden.

During the court session, Judge Richman expressed doubts about the law’s immediate enforcement, stating, “This is not a power that has been exercised historically by states.” She also noted that it may interfere with federal immigration duties.

In contrast, Judge Oldham questioned whether the law’s complete invalidation was necessary for its suspension.

Mexico has denounced the law as anti-immigrant, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador labeling it as “draconian.”

The southern border has witnessed a sharp increase in encounters with immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Under President Biden, these encounters have reached 8.1 million as of November 2023.

In a February poll from Gallup, 28% of Americans said that immigration is the country’s most pressing issue, up from 20% in January and 9% in August. Additionally, January polling from ABC News/Ipsos shows that Biden has only an 18% approval for his handling of the border, half of what it was in spring 2021.