On May 7, Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 into law. SB 4 is the most discriminatory piece of anti-immigrant legislation in the country. SB 4 is currently scheduled to go into effect in September. The bill makes Texas less safe by encouraging racial profiling and forcing local police to act as federal immigration agents.
SB 4 is a threat to immigrant families and multi-cultural communities across Texas. In order to continue fighting for immigrants’ rights in our state, Texas Civil Rights Project, along with its allies, filed litigation challenging SB 4 in late May.
TCRP began litigation against SB 4 seeking a declaration that it is unconstitutional and to prevent it from going into force. The organization then filed suit on behalf of the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, in partnership with El Paso County and its sheriff, against the State of Texas, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Director Steve McCraw of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
SB 4 violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the U.S., as well as the Texas Constitution. The legal grounds for the lawsuit are the following violations:
- SB4 discriminates against Latinos, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Hispanics, and people of color in general, and immigrants of all backgrounds.
- SB4 does not give adequate notice about how it is to be implemented.
- SB4 is likely to result in unlawful arrests when no probable cause exists.
- Civil immigration laws are the competence of federal immigration authorities, not local law enforcement agencies.
- SB4 seeks to punish elected officials and law enforcement leaders for making certain public statements regarding their policies.
- SB 4 violates the Texas Constitution because it tells local law enforcement agencies, including university police, how to run their departments and forces them to enforce federal civil immigration laws.
The community relies on its members — regardless of race, religion or national origin — to report crimes. It is unacceptable to drive crime victims and witnesses into the shadows. Already, police chiefs and sheriffs in Harris and Travis counties are reporting drops in crime reporting among Latino communities.
Like Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, Texas legislators included a “show me your papers” provision to SB 4. This new law promotes racial profiling based on appearance, background, language and accent that will affect U.S. citizens and immigrants alike — in a state where 38.8 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, according to the U.S. Census.
SB 4 assumes that the state government knows the needs of communities better than locally elected sheriffs. SB 4 would perpetuate instability by making it impossible for law enforcement officials to effectively direct and manage our deputies. Texas communities each have unique public safety and law enforcement needs that should not be undermined by state, unfunded mandates as authored in Senate Bill 4.
This bill is a result of anti-immigrant grandstanding and will strip local law enforcement of our designated power and ability to protect and serve our communities. Anti-immigrant rhetoric from the federal government has emboldened Texas lawmakers to pursue policies which harm immigrants and their families and do nothing for public safety.
In 2016 alone, Texas county compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers cost local taxpayers $61 million. Despite the federal government’s promises, they have only reimbursed a tiny fraction of the costs to local communities and counties. Ultimately, it is our local taxpayers that will pay even more for this unfunded state mandate. Importantly, our federal laws mandate that the federal government is responsible for enforcing immigration laws. SB 4 forces cities, counties and even university campus police to act as immigration agents on a daily basis.