The governor of Texas Thursday signed an order that enables state authorities to detain immigrants who have illegally crossed the border with Mexico, violating the usual authority of the federal government over U.S. immigration matters.
“The state of Texas is once again stepping up and taking unprecedented steps to protect Americans and secure the southern border,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.
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The statement added that the executive order authorizes the Texas National Guard and the Department of Homeland Security “to apprehend immigrants illegally crossing ports of entry and return them to the border.”
Abbott criticized Democrats in Washington for allegedly being lenient on immigration, saying Thursday that the move was necessary because President Joe Biden “refuses to do his job and enforce immigration laws passed by Congress.”
The order creates a potential legal conflict between Texas and the federal government, which usually deals with immigration and foreign policy, but it remains unclear how the order will be enforced.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
For its part, the Mexican government rejected the order, saying the country could only discuss immigration policy at the federal level, which it said was also standard practice in the United States.
“But this measure is understandable only in the context of the electoral campaign in Texas,” the Mexican government said in a statement Thursday evening, in light of the upcoming November elections, which include the conservative election.
Immigration numbers from Mexico to the United States have remained high in recent months.
In May, authorities detained more than 239,000 people at the Mexican border, a record number, although it also includes those who have attempted to enter the United States on multiple occasions.
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Abbott’s order comes a week after the US Supreme Court gave the Joe Biden administration the green light to end the so-called stay in Mexico policy launched by former President Donald Trump in 2019, under which asylum seekers were sent home to await resolution of their cases.