3 New Immigration Laws Coming to Texas in 2024

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott signed three border-related bills into law in December, including one that makes illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border a state-level crime. The bills will pour even more money into his fight against immigration, and they put undocumented people at heightened risk of arrest.

1. More Funding for Border Barriers

Senate Bill 3 allocates $1.54 billion of state funds to continue building barriers along the Texas-Mexico border. This is on top of at least $1.5 billion that the state has paid to build roughly 40 miles of border barriers since 2021. As of August, about 16 miles of steel barriers had been built in Webb, Val Verde, Starr and Cameron counties.

Additionally, SB 3 provides $40 million to state troopers to patrol the Colony Ridge housing development near Houston, which Abbott claims is a magnet for illegal immigration.

This new law is set to go into effect in early March 2024.

2. Longer Sentences for Human Smuggling

Senate Bill 4 will increase the penalty for people found guilty of smuggling immigrants from two years in prison to 10 years in prison. The same increased sentence also applies to anyone convicted of operating a stash house.

This law goes into effect in February 2024.

3. State Officials Authorized to Arrest People Who Cross the Border Illegally

A separate Senate Bill 4 is by far the most controversial new immigration law signed by Governor Abbott. This law makes it a state-level crime to cross into Texas from Mexico illegally. The new crime is a Class B misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders could be charged with a felony and face two to 20 years in prison.

Additionally, the law authorizes Texas state and local police to pursue and arrest undocumented immigrants. The law goes into effect in March 2024.

In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that local police had no authority to arrest people based solely on their immigration status. That responsibility belongs to federal authorities, the Court said, in striking down an Arizona law.

Many immigration attorneys, rights groups and former immigration judges around the country have said this law is unconstitutional. That assessment is based on the previously mentioned Arizona case and more than 150 years of other cases clearly ruling that the federal government has exclusive authority to enforce immigration laws.

There is a belief that Texas lawmakers want this new law to be challenged and taken to the Supreme Court, which now has a strong 6-3 conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees. These lawmakers hope for a ruling that overturns established precedent, which the Court has shown a willingness to do in recent years.

Get Immigration Help From an Experienced Texas Lawyer

Based in Dallas, the law firm of Mark E. Jacobs, P.C. is dedicated to helping immigrants understand their rights. If you have questions or concerns about these new laws or anything else about immigration, please call our Dallas office at 972-445-7577 or send us a message online.

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