A bill approved by Texas lawmakers Tuesday will allow the state to begin arresting, jailing and in some cases deporting migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally—an unprecedented escalation of the state’s challenge of federal immigration authority, the Wall Street Journal reports. The measure, passed Tuesday in the House after being approved earlier in the Senate, will make it a state crime for anyone without legal authorization to be in the U.S. to cross the border from Mexico between ports of entry. It is already illegal under federal law to cross into the U.S. outside of a designated port of entry, but that law hasn’t prevented thousands of migrants from attempting to cross, many of them to reach U.S. soil and request asylum.
Because immigration law and border-security enforcement falls under federal law, experts have questioned the constitutionality of the Texas measure. The bill, approved 83-61 in the state House and 17-11 in the state Senate, came after two special legislative sessions in which Gov. Greg Abbott specifically requested such a bill. He is expected to sign it. Republican State Rep. David Spiller, who wrote the House’s version of the bill maintained that “Texas has the right, authority and ability to protect its borders,. He called the move “a Texas solution to a Texas problem.” Over the past two years, Texas has spent more than $4.5 billion over the last two years and allocated at least $5 billion more for border operations that include constructing barriers and arresting migrants on state misdemeanor charges.