White House Must Act Now to Stop Racist State Immigration Policies (OPINION)

Jul 19, 2023
11:38 AM

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on March 10, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas. On Thursday, July 7, 2022, Gov. Abbott authorized state forces to apprehend and transport migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border, claiming the enforcement powers of federal agents. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

HOUSTON — The Supreme Court has long held that individual states do not have a right to their own immigration policies. Since Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893), the highest court in the land has continuously upheld the “right of a nation” —and only the nation— to deport immigrants not yet naturalized.

“The Federal Government has broad constitutional powers in determining what aliens shall be admitted to the United States, the period they may remain, regulation of their conduct before naturalization, and the terms and conditions of their naturalization. Under the Constitution, the states are granted no such powers,” the court upheld in De Canas v. Bica in 1976. “State laws which impose discriminatory burdens upon the entrance or residence of aliens lawfully within the United States conflict with this constitutionally derived federal power to regulate immigration, and have accordingly been held invalid.”

More specifically, the Immigration Act of 1891 removed the rights of individual states to enact immigration law and secured that responsibility strictly to the federal government. The Supreme Court has since ruled consistently that only the federal government has broad and exclusive power to regulate immigration and that the Supremacy Clause ensures no state overrides, subverts, or supersedes federal law.

So why then has the federal government not intervened in states like Texas, Florida, and Kansas, where oppressive and intentionally cruel immigration policies have recently been enacted?

It’s a question many have been asking, and now people from all over civil society are calling on the Biden administration to act. When asked, the White House directed Latino Rebels to a tweet:

“This is absolutely monstrous, inhumane policy,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) told Latino Rebels on Tuesday. “For months, (Texas) Gov. Greg Abbott has been installing death traps in the Rio Grande—and now his troops are being issued barbaric orders that endanger people’s lives. President Biden needs to speak up and do everything possible to stop Abbott from carrying out these brutal practices.”

While the administration says it is willing to work with Republican governors, its silence in the face of crimes committed against refugees speaks volumes. No, we can’t blame Joe Biden for these immigration policies as we did former President Donald Trump, who was directly responsible for the wave of strict policies during his administration. But the White House allowing these policies to continue with little-to-no pushback for so long is beyond alarming.

Shipping migrants on buses to other cities unannounced, with those cities unable to prepare ahead of time, leaves migrants on the streets and subjected to assault, rape, and violence. Immigrants are duped using lies about available assistance at their destinations, yet most have no idea where they’re being sent.

Cruelty for Republicans is always the point. And that’s just the beginning for them.

The harsher they are to immigrants and non-white people in general, the better it seems for conservatives politically. Inhumanity is now a political ploy. Attempting to rewrite history, banning books, and attacking marginalized groups through legislation is the modern Republican agenda, and it doesn’t end there. There are no harsh policies to stop asylum-seekers and immigrants that come from Europe or Canada, but when it comes to securing the southern border, the U.S. treats it as a military operation.

We all know why.

Is the solution to rely on people with the guts to confront Biden’s cabinet members, like Rep. Castro did to Secretary of State Antony Blinken? Are we to rely on private sector NGOs to litigate these matters, or will the Department of Justice step in and stop this travesty?

What Gov. Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are doing are absolute crimes in every context, so why is the federal government not trying to stop the atrocity we’re watching unfold every day?

Maybe, if President Biden’s most ardent supporters spoke up and let him know this cannot stand, he might just act. Because you know what they say about silence—it’s complicity. And if he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, then what is he supposed to act on?

Blind support for the administration and being quiet in the face of its inaction is quite troublesome. For asylum-seekers, it’s deadly.

I’m no lawyer, but it would seem that a federal case can be made to stop anti-immigrant legislation in Texas, Kansas, and Florida. Criminal cases against Gov. DeSantis and Gov. Abbott seem to be locked in as well.

The recent news in Texas confirms that, despite denials from his office, it appears Gov. Abbott is acting unilaterally, making the cronies who follow his orders to push asylum seekers back into the Rio Grande River nothing more than his personal thugs. And in that sense, they should all be prosecuted too.

Texas immigration law, razor wire on federal land, and barriers in the Rio Grande River —an international border controlled by the U.S. government— all impede Customs and Border Protection agents from doing their jobs. The state of Texas is not only stopping the federal government from performing its duties as required by law, but the administration is allowing Gov. Abbott to prevent President Biden from fulfilling a campaign promise to allow migrants to claim asylum once on U.S. soil.

If we are a nation of laws, and if Republicans claim to be the “law and order” party, then it’s time we exact justice on behalf of constitutionally protected asylum-seekers who are being treated worse than animals by a handful of racist political leaders. If we, as a nation, didn’t stand for this under former President Trump, we certainly shouldn’t accept any of this during President Biden’s tenure.

It’s way past time for the White House to act.


Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American, anti-racist, journalist, and the publisher of The Antagonist magazine. Twitter: @ExtremeArturo