Texas cities, counties, and immigrant advocacy groups are battling it out with the state to repeal the Senate Bill 4, which will ban sanctuary cities in Texas and allow law enforcement to question the immigration status of people they detain.
The law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May and is slated go into effect on September 1 and reflects the current policy crackdown toward undocumented immigration in the United States. It’s been considered the toughest state-based immigration legislation in the nation.
We’re breaking down what you need to know about this piece of legislation, how people are fighting to repeal it and the broader national implications of these anti-sanctuary city policies:
What exactly will SB4 do?
The Texas SB 4 immigration enforcement law, or what many critics call a “sanctuary city ban”, is forcing cities, local agencies and law enforcement officials to comply with federal policy to enforce immigration law. Those who don’t comply are subject to heavy fines, removal from office or criminal prosecution.
SB4 will also prohibit local agencies from implementing policy counteractive to the enforcement of federal immigration laws, or preventing officers from asking about immigration status.
[bctt tweet=”This could make undocumented folks more vulnerable to crime.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The law also enables law enforcement officers to ask people they detain, even if they’re a victim or witness to a crime, about their immigration status if the officer has “probable cause” to believe they’re undocumented.
SB 4 could make undocumented folks more vulnerable to crime because of possible repercussions from law enforcement when they report a crime. In fact, a group of Fort Worth teenagers told police they strategically carried out a string of robberies targeting Latinos “because they’ve got money and they don’t call the police.”
Who’s fighting against it?
Opponents of SB 4 include the cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Cenizo, Maverick and El Paso counties, and advocacy groups statewide and nationally. They argue that the measure disproportionately targets certain communities and violates the Equation Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection and freedom of speech.
Lawmakers and immigrant rights groups warn that the bill, which includes a clause prohibiting discrimination, could encourage racial profiling and also hinder relations between law enforcement and their communities. Many have drawn comparisons between SB 4 and Arizona’s “show me your papers law,” which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.
Texans are also beginning to call for an economic boycott of the state until SB 4 is repealed, encouraging people to support immigration by boycotting Texas conventions, conferences, and major sports events.
What’s going on with the legal battle now?
On June 26, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia heard arguments for and against SB 4, in which Texas cities also asked for a preliminary injunction. Opponents of the legislation argued that it violates the United States Constitution because it will lead to racial discrimination, which is prohibited by the First Amendment. Though the state argued that racial discrimination is already illegal in state law and subsequently in SB 4.
State lawyers also referenced Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law that was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 as proof that parts of SB 4 are constitutional.
Garcia told the court that he would review the evidence but was unsure when a ruling could be expected.
On July 10, Texas representative Ramón Romero filed a proposal for an upcoming special session to repeal SB 4. Although Romero said he doesn’t think his measure, House Bill 53, is likely to become law, he hopes that there will at least be a committee hearing to entertain discussions and have an arena where people can express their concerns again to lawmakers.
What does this mean for sanctuary cities and immigrants nationally?
SB 4 has been widely considered one of the toughest immigration enforcement policies in the nation today, reinforcing the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department’s determined efforts to crack down on undocumented immigration under the Trump administration. Several states already have measures to prohibit sanctuary city policies, with more than 80 related bills pending across the country.
[bctt tweet=”SB 4 has been considered one of the toughest immigration enforcement policies in the U.S. today.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Amid the push back and threats of cutting off federal funds, sanctuary cities remain resilient. New Orleans, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami-Dade County, Milwaukee County, Illinois’ Cook County, Nevada’s Clark County, and the California Board of State and Community Corrections have all sent letters to the Justice Department criticizing the “arbitrary” threats to punish states and cities that resist Trump immigration policy.