Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Blocks Texas Anti-Immigrant Law from Going into Effect

By Shriya Kali Chittapuram

NEW ORLEANS, LA – The ACLU Wednesday announced the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Texas’ request to allow Senate Bill 4 to go into effect while the court considers its legality.

SB 4’s “purpose is to prohibit the illegal entry into or illegal presence in the state of a noncitizen, to “authorize or require under certain circumstances the removal of persons who violate those prohibitions,” according to the official document (163-1).

Additionally, the measure states SB 4 “empowers Texas state judges and magistrates to order noncitizens to return to the country from which they entered or attempted to enter. A state judge or magistrate ‘may’ enter such an order if ‘the person agrees to the order’” if someone is convicted of a crime.

The suit alleged SB 4 had initially been passed back on Nov. 23, and as a result, in January 2024, the U.S. had sued the State of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Director McGraw. The plaintiffs urged the state of Texas from enforcing SB 4.

Following today’s court’s decision, Chief Judge Richman wrote “for nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration — the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens — is exclusively a federal power,” among other reasons.

This ruling followed after a series of legal arguments. Initially, in February, just days before SB 4’s effective date, the district court granted a preliminary injunction. On March 19, the Supreme Court vacated its own stay. The Supreme Court allowed SB 4 to be enforced briefly before the Fifth Circuit Court stepped in to temporarily halt it. Arguments about this pause were heard over Zoom on March 20.

Pro-migrant advocates have consistently cautioned that SB 4 would result in racial profiling, separation of families, and harm to Black and Brown communities in Texas. The ACLU, ACLU of Texas, and Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) brought a lawsuit on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and El Paso County.

They argued that SB 4 goes against the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause and is overridden by federal law.

“SB 4 is cruel, harmful, and blatantly illegal under 150 years of Supreme Court precedent. We welcome today’s decision and will keep fighting to end SB 4 once and for all.” stated Cody Wofsy, deputy project director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“We appreciate the decision to keep paused this unconstitutional and extreme anti-immigrant law from going into effect. SB 4 threatens our most basic civil and human rights as citizens and noncitizens alike. We will continue our efforts to prevent this hateful law from ever harming our state,” said David Donatti, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas.

“We are relieved that the Court has wisely blocked this hateful, anti-immigrant law from taking effect. This unconstitutional proposal should never have gotten this far, and we look forward to the courts blocking it permanently so we can get back to discussing real policy solutions,” noted Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways.

“We are heartened by the Fifth Circuit’s decision to keep SB 4 from taking effect. It is the first step towards securing accountability for the state of Texas for risking the health, safety, and standards of Texas residents,” said Jennifer Babaie, director of Advocacy and Legal Services at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

”Today’s decision is not the end of this legal battle, and immigrants and Texans of color across our state should remain vigilant, know their rights, and have a plan to protect themselves and their families. We will not stop fighting until this law is struck down for good,” Babaie added.

“The court did the right thing in preventing the implementation of SB 4. We will continue seeking a court decision permanently enjoining this law that has already caused so much fear and divisiveness in our community,” said Jo Anne Bernal, an El Paso County Attorney.

“Today’s ruling is a major step forward in stopping SB 4 from wreaking havoc on the border and Texas communities. SB 4 threatens the very foundation of long-settled immigration law, no state has the right to overtake that authority. We will fight to ensure that this law never goes into effect because Texans, and people seeking safety at our borders, deserve better.” said Tami Goodlette,  director of the Beyond Borders Program at TCRP.

About The Author

Shriya, known as Kali, Chittapuram is in her final year at UC Riverside majoring in Psychology with a minor in Law & Society. Kali has had a huge passion for law since high school, and aspires to attend law school in the near future to study Film & Entertainment law. In her free time, Kali loves to write, draw, and even act in films and theater.

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