(NewsNation) — Texas State Representative David Spiller clarified Texas’ controversial immigration bill, emphasizing its distinction from Arizona’s stringent “show me your papers” law,” in an exclusive interview on “NewsNation Prime.”
Texas’ Senate Bill 4, if enacted, would grant all police officers across the entire state of Texas the authority to arrest migrants who have entered the country illegally. Arizona’s 2010 immigration legislation required law enforcement officers to inquire about suspects’ immigration status if they believed they were in the U.S. illegally.
“I think worth noting is the fact that this is a misdemeanor. We’re not trying to round up folks that have been here for years,” Spiller said.
The Texas bill aims to address illegal entry into the state, treating it as a misdemeanor offense, Spiller said. Those apprehended would be given the option to either return to the country at a lawful port of entry or face prosecution, leading to potential conviction and subsequent deportation.
Hundreds of migrants were crossing the border from Mexico Wednesday, using the Rio Grande and a system of ropes and human chains to get to the U.S. This comes as U.S. cities in the north are facing dueling crises of growing migrant and homeless populations as temperatures begin to drop.
When questioned about the evidence required for police officers to make an arrest, Spiller suggested that enforcement would primarily occur within 50 miles of the border.
Officers would likely rely on observations of illegal crossings, emphasizing the importance of a totality of circumstances to determine the offense.
Critics including Congressmen Greg Casar and Joaquin Castro raised concerns about potential racial profiling and the broad scope of the legislation. They argue that the bill could turn every Texas police officer into an immigration officer and may disproportionately target individuals based on their skin color.
In response, Spiller defended the legislation asserting that it mirrors existing federal laws that have been in effect for decades. He said that the bill aligns with the Supreme Court decision in the 2012 case of Arizona v. United States, stating that it is not in conflict with federal law and is within the constitutional right of states to secure their borders.
“This is not targeting anyone. We’re trying to stop the flow of illegal immigration through our state and into our state from a foreign country, and we have every right to do that,” Spiller said.
Addressing concerns about the two-year distinction in the proposed legislation, Spiller explained that the limitation was intended to avoid conflicting with federal law. He clarified that the bill does not target individuals who have been in the country for an extended period, emphasizing that the focus is on recent illegal entries.
“Anyone that’s been here longer than two years, three years, five years, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, they can’t be charged with this offense,” Spiller said. “I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen in Dallas, Fort Worth or Houston. But I am saying that the most likely scenario would be that it would be at or near the border.”
The fate of Senate Bill 4 is now in the hands of Texas Gov. Greg Abbot who is expected to sign it. It is unclear when Abbott will sign the bill. He announced Wednesday that he will return to the border over the weekend with former President Donald Trump.
The ACLU of Texas in a post on X said, “Texas politicians just passed one of the country’s most radical anti-immigrant laws — EVER. If Gov. Abbott signs #SB4 into law, we’ll sue.”
On Wednesday, Mexico’s government criticized the measure, warning it would result in family separations and racial profiling.
Similar bills are pending in other states, including Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina.