Both Republican governors debate a particularly strict border security bill
Phoenix – Governed by tough-talking Republicans weighing their presidential candidacies, Texas and Florida are debating a particularly tough border security bill as the GOP tests the federal government’s authority over immigration.
The moves in the two GOP-controlled state legislative chambers come against a backdrop of polarization in the federal Congress that reduces the chances of a national immigration bill passing, as President Joe Biden tries to reduce migrant border crossings and discusses his own re-election bid.
The Republican proposals in Texas build on Gov. Greg Abbott’s $4 billion Operation Lone Star, which includes building more barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and moving migrants to cities governed by Democrats, including Washington, D.C., and New York. Abbott’s aides confirm that he is considering running for president.
Operation Lone Star has added more agents along the Texas border with Mexico to stop migrants from violating private property. Now, Texas lawmakers have proposed creating a new border police force that would deputize ordinary citizens, in addition to making it a state crime to enter the state without legal authorization, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
“Texas is taking historic steps to secure the border and prevent guns, drugs and cartels from attacking our state,” Abbott said in a tweet this week. “While President Biden abandons his constitutional duty, Texas continues to take responsibility.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered Donald Trump’s strongest potential Republican competitor so far in next year’s presidential primary, has proposed making human trafficking in the state a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Hospitals would be required to collect data on patients’ immigration status, and people who are in the U.S. without legal authorization would be denied state government-issued IDs.
“Texas and Florida are places with politically ambitious governors who hope to use immigrants to advance their agendas,” said attorney Tanya Broder of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), which promotes immigrant rights.
Despite the hard-line rhetoric, Broder said progress has quietly been made on immigrant rights in recent years.
The statewide organization has improved immigrants’ access to health care, higher education, professional licenses and driver’s licenses, according to a recent study Broder co-authored.
The study found that Colorado became the first state to enact an alternative to unemployment insurance for excluded workers. Arizona voters last year approved covering in-state college tuition for all students who attended high school in the state, regardless of immigration status.
Abbott and DeSantis blame Biden for last year’s huge increase in unauthorized legal crossings into the United States. But a drop this year in the number of unauthorized crossings could throw cold water on GOP attacks on Biden’s handling of border issues. The sharp drop along the southwest border followed the Biden administration’s announcement of tougher immigration measures.
The U.S. Border Patrol said 128,877 times it encountered migrants trying to cross the border in February among legal entry crossings, the lowest monthly number since February 2021. Agents apprehended migrants more than 2.5 million times at the southern border in 2022, including more than 250,000 in December, the highest number on record.
“Florida will not turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s border crisis,” DeSantis said in a tweet last month in announcing the Florida bill. “We are proposing additional measures to protect Florida residents from these reckless federal policies, including mandatory electronic verification and prohibiting local government from issuing ID cards to illegal aliens.”
While authorities in Texas and Florida trumpet their border enforcement efforts, no major immigration laws have emerged this year in Arizona, where some of the nation’s toughest laws targeting immigrants have been devised.
Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, passed in 2010, required law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of a detained or arrested person if they suspected the person might be in the United States without legal authorization, a practice that detractors said encouraged racial profiling police actions. The courts eventually struck down several of the law’s provisions.
Arizona’s Republican lawmakers are facing off against Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who this year vetoed a GOP-backed budget and a bill banning teaching public school children subjects its authors described as “critical race theory.”
New Mexico, which also shares a border with Mexico, has steadily removed barriers for immigrants without legal status to access public benefits, student financial aid and licensing for professions requiring accreditation since 2021.
After taking office in 2019, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham withdrew most of the National Guard troops her Republican predecessor sent to the border and denounced a “sham of border alarmism.”
New Mexico’s legislative chamber is also controlled by Democrats. However, lawmakers this week rejected a proposal to prohibit state and local government agencies from participating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining immigrants seeking asylum.
In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers last month launched a new attempt to require police chiefs to cooperate with federal immigration agents interested in picking up certain inmates believed to be in the United States without legal authorization. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper twice vetoed earlier versions of the measure, but Republican majorities in the General Assembly have since increased.
A similar attempt in Idaho has so far failed to pass its legislative introduction.
Immigration-related legislation in other states includes:
– A Georgia bill that failed to advance that would cover in-state college tuition for immigrant students who came to the United States as children and are protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Bills are moving forward that would prohibit companies and some individuals from certain foreign countries from purchasing farmland within 25 miles of any military base.
– A Colorado bill aimed at allowing immigrants who came to the United States as children and are protected from deportation to possess a firearm so they can become law enforcement officers.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.