In late April, the Texas House’s voted to pass SB 4, which will punish local police officers if they do not fully cooperate with detainer requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. SB 4 would also allow local peace officers to inquire into the legal status of people who are arrested or detained. Procedural steps are all that remain before it is expected to pass through a conference committee and be signed by Governor Abbott into Texas state law.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops expressed disappointment on the last-minute amendment, which allows police to inquire into the status of detained persons, in addition to those who are arrested:
“We are deeply disappointed that the House revised SB 4 to include people who have committed no crime that merits arrest or citation,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, who also serves as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Refugee Services. “This will not help peace officers build trust with the migrant community, which is critical to keeping all our communities safe.”
“In my testimony before legislative committees,” Bishop Vásquez continued, “I urged our legislators to develop humane and respectful ways for cities and peace officers to address immigration enforcement issues. I am also concerned that SB 4 may add to the human tragedy of causing families to be torn apart, when such painful tragedies can and should be avoided. The Gospel teaches us to be compassionate to the stranger and to listen to each other. I think, unfortunately, SB 4 continues to wedge us further apart and moves us away from the pastoral and human care the Gospel tells us is our vocation.”
Acknowledging governments have the right and responsibility to maintain their borders, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese added, “Immigration law should be enforced in a way that is targeted, proportional and humane. This bill does not meet the standard.”
“Immigrants who come to this country to work or to flee violence are not a threat to our safety,” explained Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of the San Antonio Archdiocese. “Sadly, this legislation will suppress their ability to contribute to our society and economy, and as a matter of principle, the unity of families must be safeguarded.”
United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, vowed to continue resistance.
“Our fight does not end here,” State Coordinator with United We Dream Karla Perez said. “Today we will protest and tomorrow we will continue our work in our cities to protect our people from this racist, anti-immigrant law and the actions of the executive office that it echoes.”
“Once again, proponents of this bill have directed their hate at the children and families of this state, people of color and our LGBTQ community,” Perez continued. “They have found new ways to criminalize our families, and have shown that they do not care about dignity and respect for immigrants in our state. History will not judge them well. We remind them that this is not over, and like our presence here, our fight for liberation remains immovable. We are here to stay!”