Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.

After seven hours of debate Nov. 14, Texas House lawmakers approved a sweeping proposal to create a new state crime for illegal immigration. Senate Bill 4 would give Texas the authority to expel undocumented immigrants from the country—currently, only the federal government has the power to do so.

The bill passed with a 83-61 vote along party lines and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Tightening border security is a top priority of the Republican governor, who directed lawmakers to tackle the issue during the fourth special legislative session of the year. The legislative overtime began Nov. 7 and will last up to 30 days.

Lawmakers also approved SB 3, which would set aside $1.5 billion to help the state continue to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border. The measure, approved 84-59, will be sent back to the Texas Senate for consideration of a small change.

What you need to know

SB 4, by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, would allow state and local law enforcement for the first time to arrest immigrants who are in Texas illegally. Judges could choose to prosecute undocumented immigrants or order them to return to their country of origin.

Migrants cannot be arrested at schools, places of religious worship or medical facilities, the bill states.

“Texas has the constitutional right, authority and ability to protect its southern border,” Spiller told lawmakers Nov. 14.

Republican lawmakers shot down over a dozen amendments offered by Democrats before approving a motion that limited debate on the controversial bill.

“Our voices are being silenced,” Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, D-Dallas, said, arguing lawmakers should be allowed to debate at length a bill that Democrats said would endanger immigrants statewide.

Democrats later offered several more amendments, but none passed.

Constitutional concerns

Immigration advocates have argued SB 4 is unconstitutional because it conflicts with federal law. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not implement their own immigration laws in Arizona v. United States, a case involving an Arizona law.

Spiller said he intentionally mirrored the language in federal statute to ensure SB 4 was legal. He emphasized he did not want to challenge the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

“We have steered clear of what Arizona did,” Spiller said.

However, the bill’s passage may set the stage for a legal fight. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas threatened to sue the state shortly after the House adjourned for the evening.

“Senate Bill [4] overrides federal immigration law, fuels racial profiling and harassment, and gives state officials the unconstitutional ability to deport people without due process, regardless of whether they are eligible to seek asylum or other humanitarian protections,” said Oni K. Blair, the executive director of the ACLU of Texas, in a statement. “If Gov. Abbott signs SB 4 ... into law, we will sue.”

Neave Criado said Nov. 15 that the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of Texas, which she leads, would see Abbott in court.

Days earlier, Granbury Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell, who leads the Senate’s border security committee, said he believed SB 4 would usurp federal immigration authority.

“The wrong I believe we are about to commit allows us to step outside the bounds of our oath,” Birdwell said before the Senate passed SB 4 on Nov. 9. “ ... We are setting a terrible precedent for the future by invalidating our obedience and faithfulness to our constitution.”

What they’re saying

Democrats raised concerns that SB 4 would allow law enforcement to discriminate against Hispanic Texans, regardless of their immigration status.

“It gives [law enforcement] wide latitude to question and challenge the citizenship of just about anyone in the state of Texas—but let's be honest about who will be targeted,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, told reporters Nov. 15. “Brown-skinned people, dark-skinned people will be targeted. People who are seen speaking foreign languages like Spanish in public are more likely to get targeted.”

Some state lawmakers also questioned how local police, particularly in border communities, could afford to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde, called SB 4 an “unfunded mandate,” arguing that the state should cover new costs created by the bill. King’s amendment to do so narrowly failed.

During the third special session, which ended Nov. 7, Elisa Tamayo, the director of government affairs for El Paso County, testified that her county would spend an estimated $186 million to house undocumented immigrants in local jails and expand jail capacity under the bill.

SB 3, also approved by the House Nov. 14, would allocate $1.54 billion for the construction, maintenance and operation of additional barriers along Texas’ southern border. The funding would help build around 100 miles of new border wall, lawmakers said.

If SB 3 becomes law, it would give $40 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety and add to the $5.1 billion lawmakers designated for border security funding during the regular legislative session.

What’s next?

The Texas House is scheduled to reconvene at 10 a.m. Nov. 17, when House lawmakers are likely to begin debating HB 1. The $7.6 billion proposal would increase funding for public schools, provide bonuses for teachers and give families public money to send their children to private schools.

Lawmakers are also poised to consider a bill and constitutional amendment aimed at increasing funding for public school safety.