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Undocumented Migrants Face Harsher Penalties Under Texas’ Immigration Law SB4

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s signing of Senate Bill 4 in December ushered in a controversial set of measures aimed at addressing immigration concerns along the state’s southern border.

The legislation, facing legal challenges, introduces stringent penalties for human smuggling and grants local law enforcement the authority to apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants.

Stricter Sentencing Guidelines for Human Smuggling

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Effective Tuesday, February 6, the new law mandates a minimum sentence of 10 years for individuals accused of smuggling undocumented immigrants.

First Degree Felonies Will Have 15 Year Incarceration

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For offenses categorized as first-degree felonies, the minimum prison term escalates to 15 years, with the possibility of a longer sentence under specific circumstances.

Penalties for Transporting Family Members

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Transporting certain close family members, defined as those with a “third degree of consanguinity” or “third degree of affinity,” carries a reduced penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Smuggling Definition Unclear

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However, concerns arise over the broad definition of smuggling, potentially leading to severe sentences for acts like providing transportation to family members for medical appointments.

Crackdown on “Stash Houses”

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Individuals found harboring immigrants in “stash houses” will face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, aiming to deter such clandestine operations.

Enhanced Penalties in Disaster Areas

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Penalties for smuggling offenses committed in areas under a declared state of disaster will be heightened to the next higher category of offense.

Additionally, the legislation expands criminal sanctions for crimes related to victims during smuggling operations.

Additional Immigration Measures Effective March

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Another facet of SB4, set to take effect on March 5, grants state and local police officers the authority to arrest undocumented immigrants and suspects attempting to cross the southern border without prior federal authorization.

Higher Penalties for Undocumented Migrants

This measure seeks to increase penalties for undocumented immigrants, with potential felony charges and extended prison sentences based on criminal history and refusal to comply with arrest.

Legal Challenges and Federal Response

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Civil rights groups and the federal government have challenged SB4, arguing its unconstitutionality and interference with federal immigration frameworks.

Conflict Between Federal and State Laws

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Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated in the federal government’s complaint,  “Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and longstanding Supreme Court precedent, states cannot adopt immigration laws that interfere with the framework enacted by Congress.”

Significant Change in Immigration Enforcement

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As Texas SB4 comes into force, its impact on immigration enforcement and migrant communities remains a subject of debate and legal scrutiny.

The implementation of stricter penalties and expanded law enforcement authority marks a significant shift in Texas’ approach to immigration policy.

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