Texas Possibly ‘Went Too Far’ With Migrant Arrests, State Official Admits

Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson admitted during a court appearance Wednesday that his state may have “went too far” in its controversial bill that would give Texas law enforcement the authority to detain migrants.

Nielson appeared before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as Texas lawmakers continue to fight with the federal government over implementing the measure, Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4). The three-judge panel has twice put the law, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed in December, on hold as the appeals court hears arguments on the bill.

The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas the green light to enact the law on March 19, which was blocked by the 5th Circuit of Appeals several hours later. Proponents of S.B. 4 argue that allowing local and state law enforcement to arrest, detain and remove individuals suspected of entering Texas illegally is the only way to address the state’s influx of migrants.

Texas Possibly 'Went Too Far' With MigrantArrests
Texas National Guard soldiers on Tuesday install border fencing layered with concertina wire near the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas. An appeals court on Wednesday heard arguments over Texas’ controversial state bill on migration…

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

“What Texas has done here is they have looked at the Supreme Court’s precedent and they have tried to develop a statute that goes up to the line of Supreme Court precedent but no further,” Nielson, a conservative attorney defending S.B. 4 in court, said on Wednesday before the 5th Circuit of Appeals.

“Now, to be fair, maybe Texas went too far and that is the question this court is going to have to decide,” the state official added, as reported by the Associated Press (AP).

Nielson was also pressed by judges Wednesday on how S.B. 4 would be enforced by state officials, and the appeals panel specifically raised questions about how law enforcement planned to enforce orders that migrants return to the country from which they entered the U.S. if they were found to have crossed the border illegally. Nielson said that such individuals would be turned over to federal officials at ports of entry.

Newsweek reached out to Abbott’s office via email Wednesday evening for further comment.

The Biden administration sued Texas in January to block S.B. 4 from taking effect, arguing that authority to detain individuals suspected of crossing the border illegally is reserved for the federal government.

During Wednesday’s hearing, DOJ attorney Daniel Tenny urged the 5th Circuit of Appeals to not change its original ruling that blocked S.B. 4, telling the panel, “Nothing that has happened this morning provides any basis for deviating from the analysis set out in this Court’s stay opinion.”

Biden and Abbott have also clashed over Texas’ methods to curb migration along its southern border with Mexico, including razor-wire fences, a partial border wall and buoy barriers in the Rio Grande. The White House has said that such measures prevent Border Patrol agents from being able to reach migrants crossing the border, and some individuals have been hurt by the installments.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows that encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border have surged in recent years. In the state of Texas alone in January, 68,260 migrant encounters were reported by agency, a steep drop from the 149,860 crossings reported in December.

In February, 189,922 encounters were reported by CBP across the entire U.S. southwest border, a slight increase from January’s 176,204. Migrant crossings saw a huge drop at the start of the year, however, with CBP reporting 301,982 encounters in December.