Justice Department sues Texas over law allowing police to arrest migrants who cross border illegally

The Justice Department on Wednesday sued Texas over a new law that lets state and local police arrest migrants who illegally cross the border, the latest legal battle between the Biden administration and Gov. Greg Abbott over immigration.

In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Austin, prosecutors said the Texas statute violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which holds that federal law takes precedence over state law and details the existing framework for removing and imposing federal criminal penalties on those who enter the country illegally. The U.S. “must speak with one voice in immigration matters,” prosecutors wrote.

They also argued that the new law would “intrude on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate the entry and removal of noncitizens, frustrate the United States’ immigration operations and proceedings, and interfere with U.S. foreign relations.”

The Justice Department asked the court to declare the law invalid and to block Texas from enforcing it before it takes effect March 5.

The Justice Department last week threatened legal action against Texas over the measure, signed last month by Abbott, a Republican, which makes it a criminal offense to enter the state illegally.

The new law makes it a misdemeanor to enter or attempt to enter Texas from a foreign country at any location other than a lawful port of entry. It also would allow state courts to order noncitizens to be removed from the U.S.

A spokesperson for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit Wednesday evening.

After the Justice Department threatened to sue last week, Abbott wrote on X that the Biden administration “not only refuses to enforce current U.S. immigration laws, they now want to stop Texas from enforcing laws against illegal immigration.”

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a battle between Abbott and the Biden administration over migrant crossings. Abbott previously ordered the installation of a 1,000-foot floating barrier near Eagle Pass and for the placement of razor wire near the Rio Grande to stop migrants from entering the state after having crossed the river from Mexico.

A federal appeals court ruled last month that the state must remove the buoy barrier, while the Biden administration this week asked the Supreme Court to allow federal authorities to cut or move the razor wire after an appeals court said agents could not do so unless there was a medical emergency.

Abbott’s office has also bused thousands of migrants out of Texas to Democratic-led cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also pummeled the White House over its border policies. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and dozens of other House Republicans traveled to Texas’ southern border Wednesday and highlighted record migrant crossings after U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported encounters with roughly 300,000 migrants at the southwest border last month.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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