Dangerous legislation that is punitive to all immigrants in Texas is advancing aggressively in the Texas Legislature. Those of us with family and friends from other countries living in Texas should be keenly aware of this offensive legislation’s danger.
Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary cities bill, cleared the Texas House of Representatives Committee on State Affairs this week along party lines. It will soon be debated on the House Floor.
I believe S.B. 4 violates both the 4th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and is riddled with potential civil rights abuses. I remain certain that this legislation could force Texas police and sheriffs to become the tentacles of federal deportation efforts.
S.B. 4, along with new federal immigration policies, has spread fear throughout Latino and immigrant communities in Texas. It has contributed to well-documented, high levels of anxiety among large numbers of U.S. citizen school children who fear that one or both parents could be deported from the United States
One of the bill’s biggest red flags is its near unanimous disapproval by Texas sheriffs and chiefs of police who fear the legislation would erode community trust. They fear that undocumented crime victims and witnesses would be reluctant to testify against criminals for fear of potential deportation.
S.B. 4 provides criminal penalties for police chiefs and elected law enforcement officials like sheriffs if they direct officers under their supervision to not enforce U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. The bill also calls for civil penalties for local entities whose law enforcement leaders would disregard ICE detainers, or articulate a policy against enforcing those detainers, for any reason.
Frighteningly, the bill also includes college campus police departments which are charged with the safety of our students many of whom are here from other nations and have varying degrees of immigration status. S.B. 4 also threatens our DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act students, who, through no fault of their own, live and attend school here, the nation in which they were raised. College campuses should be safe places where their students should not be fearful of interactions with campus police.
Dangerously, too, S.B. 4 deprives law enforcement officers discretion over which offenses would trigger interaction with the federal government after an arrest is made. An arrest for a minor offense could trigger deportation proceedings under the bill’s current form.
While the measure appears to have a strong chance of passing, there remains time to fight it. But even if further amended, S.B. 4 would still set dangerous precedents in a state that depends on a diverse workforce from around the globe.