*Note: Governor Abbott signed SB 4 into law on December 18, 2023. JRS/USA and JRS Mexico condemn this Texas state law that will further complicate efforts to respond to those seeking safety at the U.S.-Mexico border and cause harm to the immigrant community in Texas.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA) and Jesuit Refugee Service Mexico (JRS Mexico) express deep concern over anti-asylum legislation recently passed by the Texas state legislature and urge Governor Abbott to protect the rights of asylum seekers by vetoing it.
The legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 4, gives Texas enforcement officials the power to arrest, detain, and deport individuals they suspect may have entered the US irregularly. If signed into law, this would significantly challenge the US federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws allowing Texas state officers to make indiscriminate arrests and Texas state judges to deport individuals.
“SB 4 severely undermines the legal rights of individuals and families seeking safety in the US,” said Joan Rosenhauer, President of JRS/USA. “We urge the Texas state government to work with the Biden administration to find humane solutions to address the needs of those arriving at the Texas-Mexico border. Collaboration is key to ensuring that the rights and wellbeing of people on the move are protected and that borders remain secure.”
This legislation also challenges US-Mexico relations as the Mexican government has stated that it will not accept individuals deported from the state of Texas citing concerns over involuntary deportations and a lack of due process. Furthermore, there is concern that SB 4 will affect Mexican nationals that legally reside in the state of Texas due to the permission the legislation gives to state officers to arrest anyone they suspect may have entered the US irregularly.
“JRS Mexico expresses concern over the direct impact this legislation will have on migrants and asylum seekers who will face an increasingly risky environment in Texas: legal gaps in protection of their rights, the lack of an effective humanitarian response, and the failure of the state government to advance processes of social inclusion and stabilization for migrants and asylums seekers,” said William Ferney Gallo Numpaque, National Director of JRS Mexico. “In this context, we call for a focused response that is coherent, coordinated, and grounded in hospitality, and that promotes reconciliation, which is essential to overcome discrimination and xenophobia.”
In the US-Mexico border region, the policies of one country will affect the other. Both JRS/USA and JRS Mexico are concerned that the detention and deportation processes included in SB 4 violate the right to international protection of people seeking safety and will impact communities receiving those who have been deported.
As a binational response to current realities at the border, JRS/USA and JRS Mexico accompany migrants and asylum seekers in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez by providing mental health and psychosocial support and legal services. The State of Texas’s proposed anti-asylum legislation will have a devastating impact on those on both sides of the border. JRS/USA and JRS Mexico urge Governor Abbott to veto SB 4.