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In a recent ruling, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals prevented Texas state authorities from detaining and deporting migrants and asylum seekers suspected of entering the US illegally. The decision came after the Supreme Court allowed Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) to take effect, which critics have dubbed the “show me your papers” law. Legal scholars argue that SB4 undermines the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws, and rights groups are concerned about increased racial profiling and threats to the rights of asylum seekers. The Biden administration has challenged SB4, claiming it is unconstitutional.

The legal battle over SB4 has been a rollercoaster, with a federal judge blocking the law last month, only to be overturned by a conservative-dominated appeals court. The Supreme Court initially paused SB4 but lifted the stay, allowing the law to be enforced while legal challenges continue. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have supported SB4, arguing it complements federal law rather than conflicting with it. Both officials have criticized the Biden administration’s border policies and have gained national recognition for their stance on immigration.

Texas, with its long border with Mexico, has seen a surge in irregular crossings in recent years, prompting the need for stricter immigration laws. SB4, an extension of Abbott’s border security programme “Operation Lone Star”, has implemented measures such as razor wire, increased National Guard presence, and harsh penalties for those arrested. Mexico has criticized the law as inhumane, and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch have raised concerns about its impact on asylum seekers and US asylum obligations. The law allows judges to drop charges if individuals agree to be deported to Mexico, regardless of their origin or asylum claims.

The White House has condemned SB4, stating that it will not make communities safer, burden law enforcement, and create chaos and confusion at the southern border. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre accused Republican officials of politicizing the border issue instead of seeking real solutions. The legal battle over SB4 is likely to continue, with implications for immigration policies at both the state and federal levels. The clash between state and federal authorities on immigration matters highlights the ongoing debate over border security and the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in the US.

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