Mexico Rejects Receiving Migrants Deported from Texas

The governments of Mexico and Guatemala have openly condemned the controversial anti-immigrant legislation in Texas known as Senate Bill 4 (SB4), which would allow police to arrest people suspected of crossing the state’s southern border with Mexico. Texas has one of the largest Latino populations in the U.S. 

As the bill goes before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Mexico has stated it will refuse to receive any migrants deported from Texas. “Let me say this once and for all: We will not accept deportations from the Texan government,” Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) said in his morning press conference on March 20.

“We oppose this draconian law,” AMLO added, calling it a “dehumanizing” act that violates what he called “Christian” principles. 

Along the border with Mexico, it’s unclear what the implementation of SB4 would mean for migrants. Texas legally cannot deport people, and the Department of Homeland Security has indicated that they will not participate, with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling the law “unconstitutional.”

“[Migrants] are going to be in this weird limbo,” Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America tells The Progressive. “Texas won’t be able to deport a single person on its own, unless they really want to create an international incident.” 

The new law may result in what Isacson refers to as  Jim Crow-like conditions in the state, where law enforcement will likely treat differently those who look Latinx or speak Spanish, and it will also lead to the overcrowding of prisons among other potential societal impacts.

SB4 is the latest in Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s attempts to deter migrants from crossing the Rio Grande and entering the state. It advanced quickly through the state legislature after it was first proposed in November 2023.

The controversial bill was signed into law by Abbott in December 2023 and was set to go into effect on March 5, before a judge halted its implementation on February 29. According to U.S. District Judge David Ezra, “SB 4 threatens the fundamental notion that the United States must regulate immigration with one voice.”

The Supreme Court of the United States lifted the stay on the law on March 18, allowing it to go into effect. But once again the law was blocked by a Texas court, sending it back to the appeals court. Arguments over the merits of the law will be heard by the appeals court on April 3 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“I know this will go to the Supreme Court, because whichever side loses will take it higher,” Isacson predicts. “This is such a basic Constitutional issue that is in doubt. It’s going to have to be decided by the Supreme Court.”

Extreme policies like SB4 often result in higher migrant deaths due to as they’re diverted into more dangerous regions. 

Recent data from the collective known as No More Deaths showed that deaths in the El Paso, Texas, sector, which includes parts of eastern New Mexico, have greatly increased in recent years. 

If the Supreme Court upholds SB4, it is likely that we will see the rapid expansion of similar laws across the country.

“You will see more [deaths] in Texas . . . particularly, you’ll see more drownings,” Isacson says.  “If people opt for New Mexico and Arizona, you’ll see more heat exhaustion and dehydration deaths.”

The language of SB4 and the Texas’s defense of it echo the racist language of the far right’s “great replacement” theory, which falsely claims that white people are being put at risk by an “invasion” of people of other races and ethnicities. 

Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton justified the bill along these lines. In February, Abbott said: “Texas has the right to defend itself because of President Biden’s ongoing failure to fulfill his duty to protect our state from the invasion at our southern border.”

This type of rhetoric has become more common in the GOP’s immigration in the past four years. It inspired, for example, Republican attempts to impeach Mayorkas in February. The conspiracy theory was also cited as a motivation by mass shooters in both Texas and Buffalo, New York

Other states have begun to pass legislation inspired by Texas, with Iowa lawmakers approving legislation that would make it illegal to enter the state after being either denied entry into the United States or after being deported. 

“Republicans have leaned heavily into this invasion thesis,” Isacson explains. “It has very rapidly become mainstream for Republicans. It’s absolutely racist.” 

If the Supreme Court upholds SB4, it is likely that we will see the rapid expansion of similar laws across the country.

“It would burden state courts and it would fill state prisons with people who have effectively just committed administrative crimes, not even a criminal crime,” Isacson says. “It would be an enormous burden on U.S. taxpayers, and it would separate families and obviously leave big gaps in our current employment needs.”