SB-4: What Texas Senate Bill 4 Means for Immigrants
Although a federal judge recently blocked President Trump’s Executive Order to defund “sanctuary cities,” the State of Texas has passed its own version of the Order. SB-4 passed the Texas Senate in early February 2017 and the Texas House two months later amidst community concerns and protests. It was signed into law by Texas Greg Governor Abbott in early May 2017.
The high-priority, controversial bill makes it legal for law enforcement officers to request the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest. The bill also penalizes law enforcement and elected officials who don’t cooperate with requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Penalties include up to a year in jail and fines from $1,000 to $25,500 a day.
Senate Bill 4 doesn’t go into effect until September 1, 2017, but community members and immigrant advocates across the country have expressed a concern over its passing. Advocates fear that rogue officers will work closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) which will lead to more deportations and family separation. All people of color could become more vulnerable to racial profiling and requests from law enforcement to prove their immigration status.
Senate Bill 4 already has perpetuated fear of law enforcement in the Hispanic community. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo recently reported that the number of Hispanics reporting rape has reduced 42.8% and the number of those reporting other violent crime has reduced 13% since last year. When immigrants and people of color do not feel comfortable reporting crime, everyone becomes less safe.
Many questions remain surrounding Senate Bill 4 and legal challenges from El Cenizo, Maverick County were filed and lawsuits from El Paso County and Austin are expected. Although law enforcement officers have the right to ask for immigration status, it is unclear what they will then do with that information. Another concern is that some officers might call ICE directly and detain individuals until they arrive. This will lead to unlawful detention and open law enforcement agencies to potential litigation. The city and county legal challenges hopefully will stop Senate Bill 4 before its implementation on September 1st.
Local elected officials also can implement policies that will help to diminish the effects of Senate Bill 4. This includes but is not limited to a policy that would instruct law enforcement not to arrest individuals who only have a violation for driving without a license, allowing non-profits to provide know your rights presentations for immigrants held in county and city jails, and robust systems that monitor racial profiling. For example, the Mayor of Houston was presented with a number of recommendations for improving relationships with the immigrant community in a document presented to him by the Welcoming Houston Taskforce. The document provides several recommendations, however, recommendations 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 would be the best place to start to better shield the community before September 1, 2017.
Learn more about organizing and advocacy efforts to resist Senate Bill 4 by watching the video below.