EDINBURG, RGV – Like many other local law enforcement officers in Texas, Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra does not like Senate Bill 4.
The legislation, which has been passed by the Texas Senate and the Texas House, gives local police the authority to enforce immigration laws. Critics say it will hasten discrimination against people with brown skin and erode trust between immigrant communities and police.
Critics also say local law enforcement officers may feel obliged to ask people they detain about their immigration status, for fear of being fined or having criminal charges brought against them.
Sheriff Guerra was interviewed on News Talk 710 KURV on Friday morning. The hosts of “The Valley’s Morning News” show are Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan.
Guerra said his opinion of SB 4 worsened when an amendment was added on the House floor. The amendment changed the point at which local law enforcement can ask immigration status from arrested to lawfully detained.
“What it does for me, it hampers my ability to do my job, which is to keep my community safe,” Guerra said.
Because Hidalgo County neighbors Mexico, Guerra believes the legislation will have a bigger impact for his department than more rural areas of Texas.
“I’m afraid that, we live on the border, we have people in this country that just do not have the proper documentation to be here,” Guerra said.
Asked what the legislation does, Guerra said: “It gives the officer the discretion to ask an individual who is lawfully detained. But the perception will be that local law enforcement is now going to ask your immigration status and enforce immigration law.”
Guerra says local law enforcement officers are not trained to enforce immigration law. “There are over 185 different types of visas. Local law enforcement is not trained to determine somebody’s legal status,” Guerra told KURV.
Guerra added: “No law enforcement agency that I know of asked for this bill. I know all the unions lobbied against it. No major police chief in a major city or sheriff in a major county likes this bill. This bill was not needed.”