Various faith and humanitarian groups are urging the Biden administration to challenge immigration measures in Texas targeting vulnerable migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The groups are seeking federal intervention before Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 4 into law. SB-3 allocates $1.5 billion for additional border barriers, while SB-4 makes illegal border crossings a violation of state law.
Critics argue that these measures violate international treaties and domestic laws, criminalize border crossings, and grant broad authority to local and state law enforcement to arrest, prosecute, and deport individuals suspected of crossing into Texas from Mexico. The #WelcomewithDignity campaign and numerous humanitarian organizations condemn the legislation as unconstitutional, racist, and inhumane, urging the Biden administration to challenge these measures.
The bills are seen as a departure from principles of love and compassion, hindering church immigrant and refugee ministries. Critics predict legal challenges, arguing that the laws will be declared unconstitutional, and express concern that they will exacerbate dangers for migrants at the border.
Baptist News Global reports:
Ruben Ortiz, Latino field ministries coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was among the signatories, as were Elket Rodriguez and Anyra Cano of Fellowship Southwest. Jesse Rincones, executive director of the Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas, and Rolando Rodriguez, director of Texas Baptists en Español, also signed the letter.
Although the measures had yet to pass the state House and Senate when the letter was sent, it urged Abbott to use his veto power should the measures come across his desk.
“The passage of these bills will inadvertently foster fear and create unwarranted obstacles for the crucial care provided by our church immigrant and refugee ministries,” the letter says. “This legislation appears to erect barriers that hinder churches in fulfilling their sacred mission of welcoming and caring for our neighbors. We earnestly implore you to revisit these public policies and collaborate with us to develop alternative solutions that promote the safety and prosperity of our communities.”
A range of other statements described the legislation as racist, xenophobic and in violation of federal law.
“In addition to being unconstitutional, the law passed by the Texas Legislature allowing state law enforcement to arrest and deport immigrants crossing from Mexico is inhumane and morally repugnant,” said Sister Marie Lucey, associate director of the Franciscan Action Network. “We Franciscans urge the Biden administration to strongly challenge SB-4 as illegal, anti-immigrant and racist. Many, if not most, members of the Texas legislature claim to be Christian, but SB-4 is contrary to gospel values and principles.”
Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, said the Legislature has wasted its time and taxpayer dollars passing legislation that will be overturned in the courts.