Texas 'may have gone too far' with immigration law, state attorney tells federal court


A lawyer supporting Texas' controversial immigration law told a federal appeals court Wednesday that state lawmakers may have gone “too far” when they passed the controversial immigration law last year.

The law, known as SB4, makes illegal entry into Texas a state crime and allows state judges to order immigrants deported.

In the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielsen said lawmakers sought to “toe the line” in terms of what Supreme Court precedent allows states to do when crafting the law.

But, Nielsen added: “Now, to be fair, Texas may have gone too far.”

Nielsen is arguing before a circuit panel that has already suspended the law from taking effect while the court examines the law further. Nielsen tried to downplay how sweeping the law was and argued that it did not interfere with federal authority over immigration.

On Wednesday, Nielsen said that under the Texas Attorney General's Office interpretation of state law, immigrants subject to state court deportation orders would be turned over to federal immigration officials at border ports, and federal officials would then decide whether they should be released. They are awaiting further action within the United States.

Chief Circuit Judge Priscilla Richman, who was the key swing vote in last week's 2-1 panel decision that temporarily suspended the law, was skeptical of Nielsen's efforts to limit the reach of the state law.

“What did the law accomplish?” she asked Nielsen.

A Justice Department lawyer who brought one of the lawsuits challenging the Texas law urged the appeals court not to depart from its earlier ruling blocking the law.

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“Nothing that happened this morning provides any basis to depart from the analysis set forth in this court's stay opinions,” DOJ attorney Daniel Denny told the appeals court Wednesday.

Judge Andrew Oldham, the only member who seemed willing to uphold the law, asked a lawyer for the Biden administration questions that undermined the arguments made by other plaintiffs against the administration and the law.

“Never in the history of the country has the United States achieved what it has accomplished in this matter, the masked invalidity of a law that was never enacted,” he said at one point. “It was an extraordinary achievement for America to win.”

Nielsen said in court that SB 4 is an attempt by the state to enforce federal immigration laws that the Biden administration is ignoring.

“Of course, we know that presidents come and go, and different administrations may implement federal law differently,” he said, arguing that the law would not be needed under a different presidential administration.

If the court finds certain aspects of the Texas law invalid, he said, it shouldn't strike down the entire law, but instead let other statutes remain on the books to “cut off” those parts.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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