Supreme Court allows Texas to begin enforcing law that lets police arrest migrants at border


McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A Supreme Court decision that lets Texas arrest and deport migrants on charges of illegally entering the country could have a dramatic impact on the U.S.-Mexico border but its immediate effect was muted.

Sheriffs and police chiefs who will put the law into effect were largely circumspect about when, where and how migrants may be arrested. Before the court on Tuesday let the state law take effect while a legal challenge plays out, some sheriffs were ready to relish an unprecedented state expansion into border enforcement, while others were reluctant.

Texas was silent in the hours after the ruling on whether and when state troopers or Texas National Guard soldiers — who have the most interaction with migrants —- would begin enforcement.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary said in a sharply worded statement that it would refuse to take anyone back who is ordered to leave the country under the state law and that it “categorically rejects” any state or local government enforcement of immigration laws.

“Mexico reiterates the legitimate right to protect the rights of its nationals in the United States and to determine its own policies regarding entry into its territory,” the government said.

Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, who has largely embraced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's multibillion-dollar border enforcement effort, said he was “prepared to proceed with prosecutions” but officers would need “probable cause” to make arrests. His county covers a stretch of border near Del Rio that was recently the busiest corridor for illegal crossings but quieted considerably.

“It is unlikely that observers will see an overnight change,” Coe said.

Skylor Hearn, executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, said sheriffs’ offices have been training since last year.

“If a county chooses to take it on themselves, they are choosing for their taxpayers to take it on themselves as well,” Hearn said. “As long as the federal government is willing to do its part that it is supposed to be doing, it is ideal for them to take possession and custody of these people."

Arrests for illegal crossings fell by half in January from a record-high of 250,000 in December, with sharp declines in Texas. Arrests in the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, the focus of Abbott's enforcement, fell 76% from December. Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings for much of the last decade, recorded its fewest arrests since June 2020.