Many intense debates have taken place both publicly and privately regarding Texas’ proposal to implement tougher immigration laws. The centerpiece of these arguments is a piece of legislature known to Texans as Senate Bill 4.
Senate Bill 4 contains language that has been divisive not only for Texas and Americans but is reported to also threaten our country’s relationship with Mexico. Supporters of immigrant rights have been vocal in their disdain for SB 4 and seek to make the typical Texan more aware of the facts pertaining to SB 4 and the battle surrounding the bill.
The Intent Of Senate Bill 4 And The Consequences Of Not Following The Bill
SB 4 seeks to eliminate sanctuary cities by making it lawful for police officers to interrogate persons who are lawfully detained about their immigration status. Local police are then required to cooperate with immigration authorities in reporting and discoveries of undocumented immigrants. SB 4 also makes it illegal for local police jurisdictions to incorporate policies that prevent officers from questioning a detained individual about immigration status.
In addition, local law enforcement officials are subject to Class A misdemeanors if failing to cooperate with immigration authorities by placing holds on inmates who are at risk of deportation. Both jail time and fines are applicable and fines range from $1000 for a first offense to up to $25,500 for subsequent offenses. These penalties also extend to public colleges and universities.
The Impact For Undocumented Immigrants
Police officers, for all practical purposes, will now be given the authority to conduct on-spot immigration interviews whenever there is police contact with individuals. Texas Democrats, as well as other opponents of SB 4, have argued that routine traffic stops should not become vehicles to mark undocumented immigrants for deportation. Democratic lawmakers have also expressed concern that the bill would cause undocumented immigrants to be less likely to reach out to authorities when victimized by crime or facing other dangers.
Texas Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock, the republican that authored the legislature counters this argument by stating that under SB 4 officers are not required to question a lawfully detained individual about their immigration status but are only given the right of discretion to do so.
Democrats also point out that by extending the bill to include public colleges and universities the stage is set for situations to occur that will see college students caught with a beer at a house party begin on the path to deportation. The bill would also expose school administrators to the possibilities of punitive actions if unwilling to enforce these policies.
Comparison To Arizona Law
The state of Arizona found itself in the national spotlight when it passed a similar law in 2010. The Arizona law, which has been neutralized by legal challenges, went a step further than did the Texas Law by making It compulsory for officers to question detained individuals about their current immigration statuses. Arizona State Attorney General instructed officers to ignore the compulsory provision of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 in a settlement agreement. The Arizona law has no provision that requires local authorities to detain inmates for deportation purposes.
Support for SB 4
Governor Greg Abbot, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton have all been vocal in their public support of the bill and the Republican party in Texas is generally supportive of the bill.
President Donald Trump has also demonstrated his support for Texas Senate Bill 4 and went as far as to file a statement in support of the bill that argued in affirmation of the bill’s constitutional merits. Supporters cite the bill’s supposed effectiveness in combating illegal immigration and argues that talk of the bill’s negative consequences have been greatly exaggerated.
Opposition to SB 4
Maverick County, along with the Mexican border city of El Cenizo, began the fight against SB 4 immediately upon the bill being signed into law. To date, multiple cities across the state of Texas, as well as the Mexican government, have vowed to fight against the bill.
Opposition to SB 4 state that the bill violates both state and U.S. constitutions and will inevitably lead to racial profiling if not stricken from law.
Relationship With Mexico
Mexico has warned in legal briefs that SB 4 could cause irreparable damage to the diplomatic relationship between Mexico and the U.S. Mexico joined the fight against SB 4 after carefully considering the effect the bill would have on Mexican citizens.
It is estimated that as many as 2.5 million persons residing in Texas were born in Mexico and Mexico officials state that many of them have experienced unjust fears and uncertainties as a result of SB 4. Calls by Mexican citizens to a government operation center have increased by over 800% when compared to the same time period a year ago.
The Present State Of Fight
The battle of Senate Bill 4 rages on but minor victories have already been enjoyed by supporters of the bill. In September, a three-judge panel decided that portions of the bill could go into effect. More on both the history of the fight as well as what the future may hold in the battle of SB 4 can be read here and this article gives a recount of the latest round of legal battles.