US Justice Department sues Texas over immigration law

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Texas to challenge an immigration law that gives state officials broad powers to arrest, prosecute and deport people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.


The law, known as SB4, or Senate Bill 4, makes it a state crime to illegally enter or re-enter Texas from a foreign country and gives state and local law enforcement authorities the power to arrest and prosecute violators. It also allows state judges to order that individuals be deported, with up to 20-year prison sentences for those who refuse to comply.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes about two weeks after a lawsuit by civil rights groups that also challenged the new Republican-backed Texas law.


“SB 4 is clearly unconstitutional,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

“Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states cannot adopt immigration laws that interfere with the framework enacted by Congress,” Gupta said in a statement released by the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday.


The Republican-controlled Texas legislature passed the measure in November. The state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed the law in December.

Texas is already embroiled in a series of court cases related to Abbott’s efforts to deter and punish illegal border crossings.

Record numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021. Abbott and other Republicans blame Biden, who is seeking re-election in 2024, for rolling back restrictive policies of former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party nomination.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)