AUSTIN, Texas – State legislators from El Paso have condemned Senate Bill 4, the legislation that allows local law enforcement to ask the immigration status of residents they have detained.
State Rep. César Blanco, a Democrat, issued this statement:
“This is by far the most racist and anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant bill that has come out of the Texas House of Representatives in recent memory.
“Throughout the debate, the Republicans took a very bad bill and made it even worse with their amendments. One of the amendments, is what we are calling, the “Show Me Your Papers” amendment. What this essentially says that it would be legal to ask the immigration status of any ‘detained’ person instead of only those ‘arrested’ for an alleged crime.
“The bill will have a chilling effect on our communities. Just look at some of the trends and questionable practices along the border after the “border-security” surge. All we are seeing is an uptick in motorists being pulled over. These are pre-textual stops to open the door to an immigration inquiry just because the motorist is brown. S.B. 4 helps protect that behavior and motivation.
“SB 4 codifies hatred and discrimination, not just towards immigrants but towards any person of color, particularly Hispanics. It invites fear into our communities, tears families apart, and pushes working people into the shadows. It is an unrealistic measure that will ultimately damage the Texas economy and blurs the line between local law enforcement and Federal immigration authorities.
“I want immigrants and Hispanics to know, the fight is not over. We might have loss this battle but we will not lose the war. The arc of history bends towards justice and there will be a day or reckoning.
“The best thing Hispanics and immigrants can do right now, is to continue to prove Republicans and others wrong and not allow ourselves to fit their mold and stereotypes.
“Hispanics and immigrants need to continue being community leaders, job creators, innovators, educators, healthcare providers, economic drivers, and friendly neighbors.
“Elections matter, and I believe this will be a lightning rod that mobilizes the Latino vote. It has to be. And if it is, that day of reckoning will come sooner rather than later.
State Sen. José Rodríguez, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said SB 4 coerces local police to carry out federal immigration law.
“SB 4 is an attack on Hispanics and the immigrant community. In a sad irony, a bill purportedly about public safety and the rule of law makes us less safe and erodes confidence in the justice system by disregarding constitutional due process protections and separation of powers.”
Rodríguez said there are significant legal issues with SB 4. He offered these points in opposition to the legislation:
· El Paso County is under a settlement entered in federal court in 2006 that prohibits the county from enforcing civil immigration law. The settlement resulted from traffic checkpoints set up by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department in which it was alleged deputies conducted unlawful searches, seizures and detentions. Should SB 4 become law in its current form, it’s virtually certain to result in a costly lawsuit for El Paso County, which must choose between a federal settlement agreement and compliance with this new state law.
· Texas cannot eliminate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure:
o An ICE request to county jails to detain a person must be based on probable cause that the person is violating immigration law.
o But these detainers are not issued by an independent judge who reviews them for probable cause. They are issued by immigration officers.
o Federal courts in other jurisdictions have already held that a county’s compliance with voluntary immigration detainers violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
· SB4 coerces local governments:
o Creates a separate criminal offense under state law for failure to comply with the bill, making local officials personally liable for performance of each and every law officer working in their jurisdiction.
o Subjects local entities to Attorney General lawsuits originating from public complaints that may have no merit, eroding community relations and creating unnecessary expense.
o Singles out the enforcement authority of University Campus police to target students that may be DREAMers or DACA recipients.