Texas Passes New Immigration Law

Billions for a wall plus a likely showdown with the feds.

Via the Texas Tribune: Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill making illegal immigration a state crime.

Senate Bill 3 earmarks $1.54 billion in state money to continue construction of barriers along the 1,200-mile border, and allows the state to spend up to $40 million for state troopers to patrol Colony Ridge, a housing development near Houston that far-right publications claim is a magnet for undocumented immigrants.

The money would be added to at least $1.5 billion in contracts the state has issued since September 2021 to build about 40 miles of border barrier. As of August, Texas had erected 16 miles of steel bollard barriers in Starr, Cameron, Val Verde and Webb counties.

Senate Bill 4 creates a state crime for illegally crossing the border from Mexico — a new law that is likely to force a legal showdown with the federal government.


The law allows a judge to drop the charges if a migrant agrees to return to Mexico.

Two immediate thoughts. First, this creates a basis for rounding up migrants (and almost certainly an increase in harassment of Hispanic Americans since this will incentivize state law enforcement to check documents based on what people look like). Second, I can’t help but continue to think that the dollars being expended on border barriers could be spent far more efficaciously in numerous ways.

Without any doubt, this will lead the federal government to step in and sue on the basis that this is not a state matter. This reminds me of SB1070 passed in Arizona, portions of which were overturned by SCOTUS on the basis that immigration status is a federal issue.

From a purely political point of view, I am going to note that this is smart for Abbott. It will be met warmly by his supporters and will resonate nationally with Republicans. It represents the kind of hardcore enforcement and barrier-building policy preferences that are quite popular in those circles. That these measures will almost certainly not solve (or even appreciably affect) the migrant problem facing the country will not matter.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Crime, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    The backlash from voters that Abbott will face, will come from the increasingly harassed Hispanic voters.

    Of course it is all performance, since the SC will eventually rule that immigration enforcement is a Federal purview. In the mean time Federal courts in TX will rule for Abbott as will the 5th District Appeals Court. So it is all performative in the end rather than substantive and the MAGAts don’t care who gets hurt, as long as it’s not them.

  2. Tony W says:

    Meanwhile, they wink at the Fort Worth meatpacking plants and large ranches in West Texas that actually hire undocumented workers.

  3. Paine says:

    Sure, it will get struck down. But the ads about Biden suing to “keep the borders open” write themselves.

  4. BobinYoungstown says:

    Where will Texas law enforcement put all the arrestees while awaiting arraignment. Who is going to hear all these arraignments? Once arraigned, does Texas have the capacity to detain these folks awaiting trial and how long is that detention likely to be?
    I just can’t imagine that Texas is set-up to actually arrest thousands each day.

    Performative? Absolutely !

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’ll take an illegal immigrant over a TX Republican any day of the week. One need look no further than the Texas AG’s office to see how amoral they are..

  6. DK says:

    That these measures will almost certainly not solve (or even appreciably affect) the migrant problem facing the country will not matter.

    Why don’t Republicans go after and prosecute the farmers, wealthy construction firms, corporate factory owners, and rich people that help incentive illegal migration and evade taxation by employing migrants as agriculture workers, domestics, etc?


  7. Jay L. Gischer says:

    Yes, Abbot is a clever guy. No question about that. What’s even more clever about this is that all it takes is a few segments on TV of Texas Rangers arresting “illegals” to make everyone in this camp go “yeah”.

    Then you just let it lie. You can do this because illegal immigration isn’t something causes the average citizen any problems at all. Do you see people saying, “Hey, I wanted that job in the meat-packing plant!” Neither do I.

    Of course, this is why spending on border security isn’t a hight priority with me. I am aligned with “taking care that the laws are faithfully executed”, and probably the best spend here is on the courts, since most of the people in the country illegally got there legally.

    Is Texas about to spend a bunch of money on detention camps, and keep those people there without some due process. No. That is illegal and would cost them money.

    So the whole thing is political performance. From top to bottom.

  8. Beth says:


    [fake 1980’s Russian accent voice]

    HA! HA! HA! You make funny joke.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tony W: Well duh! You always need to keep the undocumented workers in places where they’re easy to find in crackdown sweeps.

  10. Kathy says:

    Between this and the legalized hate crimes against children Beth posted about yesterday, Texas is acting like an independent country rather than a state. And a hostile country at that.

  11. gVOR10 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    where they’re easy to find in crackdown sweeps.

    Conveniently just before payday.

  12. just nutha says:

    @gVOR10: Of course!

  13. Gavin says:

    Purely performative — and not an efficient use of $$.
    I’ll “solve” the border issue tomorrow:
    Increase by a factor of 10 the FTE count inspecting without warning those factories, construction sites, restaurants, and farms that all exploit immigrants as a labor source.
    $100k fine attached to the owner personally for each person without a valid green card.
    No need for the barrier bc they’d have nothing to do on the Other Side.

  14. inhumans99 says:

    @Jay L. Gischer:

    Jay, the solution to how TX will accommodate rounding up thousands of undocumented immigrants is right there in your post, places like the meat packing plants are already set to accommodate thousands of individuals, and the companies employing these illegal workers can threaten them with jail time or heading back to Mexico if they get uppity, and the slaughter houses, and agribusinesses will have the full backing of the state of TX to make these threats.

    You know what, Biden should go on Fox News and say that he will not sue TX if they also enshrine it into law that all employers in the state use everify.

    If employees across the state had to scramble to replace possibly 10s of thousands of employees almost overnight, that might cause them to finally want to skin Abbott while he is alive.


Speak Your Mind