Mexico fears discrimination, strained US relations under new Texas immigration law

WASHINGTON/CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) -Mexico filed a court brief supporting the U.S. Department of Justice's opposition to a Republican-backed Texas law that would empower state authorities to arrest and prosecute people suspected of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The law, known as Senate Bill 4, would make it a state crime to illegally enter or re-enter Texas from a foreign country and would allow state judges to order that violators leave the United States, with prison sentences up to 20 years for those who refuse to comply. It has been blocked by a federal judge and is currently under appeal.

"Mexico is deeply concerned that S.B. 4 will be applied in a discriminatory manner and fears that its enforcement will lead to improper harassment, detention, removal, and criminalization of Mexican citizens and individuals of Latino appearance," the document said.

Critics of the measure point out that migrants who cross the border can already be charged with illegal entry or re-entry under U.S. federal laws, and immigrant advocates say a state law could fuel racial profiling.

On Thursday, dozens of migrants broke through fencing and razor wire and knocked down some Texas military forces in El Paso, Texas, after waiting on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, a Reuters witness said.

The group pushed past the forces to a sector of border wall where they could be processed by U.S. Border Patrol, the witness said.

By 3 p.m., the migrants had been "moved from the site" and now "the situation is under control," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

About 139,000 migrants have been apprehended in the area around El Paso since Oct. 1, 2023, according to internal CBP statistics, making it one of the busier stretches of the border.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has taken a range of actions to discourage border crossings, saying Democratic President Joe Biden has not adequately secured the border.

The Biden administration says that some Texas actions have interfered with immigration enforcement, which has historically been the realm of the federal government.

Mexico underscored its concern about the potential repercussions of the Texas law on U.S.-Mexico trade and commercial relations, as well as relations between Mexico and the state.

"If S.B. 4 is ever fully implemented, Mexican citizens, regardless of their immigration status and country of residence, will be rightly afraid to visit Texas, engage in commercial trucking through Texas, or travel on rail through Texas, for work or pleasure, out of concern that they will be subject to unlawful police scrutiny and detention," Mexico said.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and David Peinado in Ciudad Juarez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Chris Reese, Bill Berkrot, Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)