Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The last few days have been a rollercoaster for Texas' new immigration law

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

OK. It has been a roller coaster week in the ongoing immigration battle between Texas and the U.S. government, and it is only Wednesday, people. Just in the last day, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the state of Texas to begin enforcing a far-reaching new immigration law. Then last night, a federal appeals court blocked the law. And then this morning, that same appeals court heard arguments about the law's legality. Joining us now to talk about all of this is NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Hi, Jasmine.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: OK, there has been so much back and forth on this law. Where does it stand exactly right now?

GARSD: There has been a lot of back and forth. And also, this is one of several lawsuits between Texas and the federal government about immigration enforcement, so it can definitely get very confusing. Now, the law in question here gives local law enforcement - that includes state troopers, sheriffs, policemen - the power to arrest migrants suspected of crossing the border. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to implement it. But then close to midnight, a federal appeals court blocked it ahead of arguments which we heard this morning. As of right now, the appeals court has not issued a decision.

CHANG: Right. And I understand that you listened in on those arguments. Can you tell us more about what they talked about?

GARSD: There were a lot of arguments about the core issue which is at stake here, which is can a state take immigration matters into its own hands versus, no, this is something only the federal government can enforce. There was also a lot of talk about Arizona and how back in 2010, that state enacted a similar law. Most of it was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, which found that it was stepping over federal law.

CHANG: OK, so for now, this Texas law remains on hold. But how are Texas law enforcement agencies responding to just the possibility of having to enforce it?

GARSD: Local counties say they're assessing the impact this would have. The Houston Police Department has said the law would create a climate of fear and distrust with communities they're trying to serve. And then you have the sheriff in neighboring Chambers County who has welcomed it.

CHANG: OK, so lots of different opinions. Well, this law would also give Texas judges the power to send migrants back to Mexico, regardless of the actual country of origin of the particular undocumented immigrant at issue. How has Mexico responded to all of this?

GARSD: Well, I think it's important to remember that migrants coming in today are mostly not from Mexico. So last night, Mexico issued a statement saying it would not, under any circumstances, accept the return of any migrants from Texas. And this is a concern that's come up among those who oppose this law, that it's going to create tension with Mexico, who for years has been Texas' largest trading partner.

CHANG: I want to step back because, Jasmine, you've covered humanitarian needs in the immigrant community all around the U.S. What do you think the impact of this law could be in Texas?

GARSD: Well, human rights groups have long been denouncing Texas' border policies as inhumane, and this particular law is being flagged as potentially leading to racial profiling. In a statement, the Texas ACLU said the law, quote, threatens our most basic civil and human rights as citizens and non-citizens. And Texas Governor Greg Abbott is doubling down. Earlier today, he insisted that Texas has the right to defend its borders.

CHANG: OK, so what's coming next in the courts?

GARSD: Judges concluded the hearing without any indication of when they plan to rule. For now, the appeals court has arguments scheduled for April 3.

CHANG: That is NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you so much, Jasmine.

GARSD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF GHOSTFACE KILLAH, BADBADNOTGOOD AND ELZHI SONG, "GUNSHOWERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.