Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Wednesday to use existing state laws to arrest and jail migrants entering the U.S. through his state illegally, likely setting up a showdown with the Biden administration.
In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Abbott first acknowledged and thanked former President Donald Trump for endorsing his 2022 reelection campaign while moving on to explain one of the reasons why Trump backs him is his tough border enforcement stance.
He also noted during his interview that states are limited in what they can do in terms of dealing with illegal immigrants since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled within the past decade that the federal government is the ultimate authority over issues regarding the country’s international boundaries.
“Look at the words that he used to talk about why he’s endorsing me and how we partnered up together to do things like secure the border,” Abbott said, adding that he and the former president also backed economic policies that dramatically improved the economy nationally and in Texas, especially.
But, the GOP governor said, those jobs “are now being “crushed” by a massive influx of migrants, many of whom work for far cheaper wages.
Abbott went on to note that several Hispanic-dominated border counties that have historically voted for Democratic presidential candidates switched or dramatically shifted to Trump primarily because residents there want immigration laws enforced.
“President Trump proved that people of all backgrounds who live on the border, who live inland…they want a secure border, and that is what I am trying to step up and achieve,” Abbott told Hannity.
Abbott and Texas, as well as the other border states, are dealing with a criminal influx of tens of thousands of people who are streaming illegally into the country following President Joe Biden’s reversal of most of his predecessor’s tough border enforcement policies.
The host then referenced earlier video clips showing migrants being smuggled into the U.S. or being kept in cramped, overcrowded detention facilities while adding that the border situation has also lent itself to a massive spike in the smuggling of deadly drugs including fentanyl into the U.S. by Mexico-based cartels. Hannity also said that Abbott was being prevented by the Biden administration from enforcing immigration laws.
Abbott responded by saying 34 counties along the border have asked him “to declare their county a disaster, which I did,” adding that under normal circumstances, “gubernatorial declarations are for things like hurricanes.”
“I don’t think this has ever happened before where a disaster declaration was made for border counties because of the influx of people coming across the border. But I did because we are about to change the way that Texas addresses the challenges on the border, and we are going to start by helping these 34 counties respond by increasing arrests,” Abbott said.
“We’ve got a new game in the state of Texas that’s going to begin next week, and that’s we’re going to start arresting…” he continued before Hannity jumped to ask a question.
“Governor, why can’t you just say, ‘You’re not allowed in,’ and just protect the border and say, ‘Go back?’” Hannity pressed.
“I’ll be very clear with you, Sean. And you may remember this, I know you did interviews on this more than a decade ago when you talked to Jan Brewer. When Jan Brewer was governor of Arizona, Arizona passed laws that did exactly that, where they would send people back and they would not accept people,” Abbott said.
“And the law that Arizona passed went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Arizona V. the United States, where the United States Supreme Court said Arizona does not have that. You know the attorney general that I used to be, and so I followed the law and the law that I’m going to use will be legal ways in which Texas is going to start arresting everybody coming across the border,” he added.
“Not just arresting them, but because this is not going to be aggravated trespass, they are going to be spending a half a year in jail, if not a year in jail, as well as other actions that I will be announcing next week.”
While it’s not clear what specific state laws Abbott’s administration plans to use, but if Texas authorities start locking up migrants, those actions are likely to start a legal battle with the Biden administration, which will no doubt assert sovereignty over border issues.
Still, a 2019 Heritage Foundation analysis found that there are a number of legal tools states can employ to battle illegal immigration.
“States can legislate and act in this space to a limited—but crucial—extent as long as their actions are not preempted by federal law. For example, states can pass licensing and similar laws directed at those who employ, recruit, or refer for a fee illegal aliens,” it said.
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