Immigration Policies In Texas: Senate Bill 4

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Immigration is a very sensitive and highly debated topic that tends to separate the nation and generate conflict between opposing sides. In recent years immigrants’ rights and civil liberties have been invaded by countless reforms and restrictions on legal and illegal immigrants. There have been many deliberations concerning immigration policies in Texas, not only for its close proximation to Mexico, but because, according to The American Immigration Council and the 2015 U. S Census Bureau, “Immigrants now account for 17 percent of the state’s total population, ” this is including people from Mexico, Asia, India, etc. It is evident that immigrants are part of our society and makes Texas the diverse state that it is today.

Texas needs an immigration system that people can trust and feel safe in. Unfortunately, on May 7, 2017, George Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill 4 into law and sparked a divide in the state and made many people feel everything but safe. This bill allows police to ask about the immigration status of anyone they lawfully detain. This bill also bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas and requires local police officers to comply with U. S Immigration officials. In an immigration law journal, Ahmad Al-Dajani, a judicial law clerk, defines a ‘sanctuary city’ as an area where “policies limit cooperation between local officials and federal immigration authorities”. For many sanctuary cities, they can be seen in two different ways. One being a place of refugee or safety, like the name implies, or others can see sanctuary cities as a place where violence and crimes are constantly occurring because federal law is being ignored. Texas legislature saw these cities to be of harm to people and SB 4 was their solution of advancing state security. Although many people in the government think this bill will have a positive impact on the state, others disagree and see this bill as a great divide.

Residents of Texas including legal and illegal immigrants, feel both threaten and concerned for the affects this bill will have. As stated in a New York Times article, this bill can be seen as “unconstitutional and may open the doors to racial profiling”. Since any peace officer including campus police, district attorneys, and even a booking clerk can ask a person for their immigration status with no reasonable cause, critics of the bill say it is a violation of their human rights. In fact, defense attorney Amber Vazquez says, “The law might be challengeable under the Fourth Amendment — the legal basis for search warrants, which prohibits unreasonable searches — and the Fifth Amendment, which protects people’s right to refrain from answering questions that might incriminate them”. Having the potential to ask anyone for their citizenship creates a distrust between local police officers and residents. SB 4 puts residents at risk of being racial profiled due to law enforcement having full discretion when to ask or when not to ask if a person has their ‘papers’. It can potentially lead to “generalizing and demonizing the entire immigrant community”.

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Not only are residents being affected by SB 4 but Texas police say this “show me your papers” law is “damaging public safety”. According to Dallas News, a policeman in the Texas Police Chiefs Associate said, this law will increase “crime against immigrants and in the broader community; create a class of silent victims; and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime”. Since police officers have discretion to ask anyone for their immigration status, residents fear to make any kind contact with law enforcement, even if they are victims to crimes. This creates a giant wedge between people of the state and law enforcement. Of course, not all police officers agree with this bill and are not going to ask for your legal status, but they do have to cooperate with ICE. Before the bill was signed, the police were not required to hold you if there was a request for your deportation. But now all law enforcement is required to work with ICE. According to a New York Times article, if they do not, “S. B. 4 threatens officials who violate the law with fines, jail time and removal from office” (Fernandez). To put everything in context, Texas Senate, Sylvia Garcia says “This bill will go from a broken taillight to a broken family to a broken faith in our system”. All things considered, neither police, public, or government officials will feel comfortable or safe in their own community due to the bill being unconstitutional, possibility of racial profiling, and creating a distrust between the government and the public.

It goes without saying Senate Bill 4 has many critics and non-supporters. This bill seems to be everything but positive. On the contrary, Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted a Facebook live video and said this bill actually “enforces the law and citizens deserve law breakers to face the consequences. Texans expect us to keep them safe, and that is exactly what we are going to do by me signing this law. ” Abbott saw this law to be necessary to keep criminals off the streets of Texas. Although many immigrants are concerned about deportation, Abbot says SB 4 will not hurt anyone “who is not a criminal”. In response to the racial profiling argument, Abbot says “It is illegal for a law enforcement officer to racial profile anybody, if they do that, the law enforcement officer will be in a lot of trouble”. His claim is that this bill is meant as no intentional harm and is completely constitutional. In fact, he repeatedly clarifies that police officers do not have to ask for the immigration status but once lawfully detained, officers do have to comply with ICE. Greg Abbott is not the only political leader who encourages the mandate of his law, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton also publicly support SB 4. Dan Patrick put out a statement on ABC news and said, “There is no excuse for endangering our communities by allowing criminal aliens who have committed a crime to go free. SB 4 will ensure that no liberal local official can flaunt the law. ” This law also has the support of many Republicans because this is what Trump wanted to do all over the country. Many Republicans state there is “no major change. ” On Fox News, in an interview with a supporter, a man says, “There are hardly any sanctuary cities in Texas anyway. . . and this way we can get all criminals off the streets. ”

To supporters this bill is seen as indisputable, nobody should have any concerns because it is completely constitutional and non-harmful to residents. In conclusion, it is evident that the goal of legislature passing this bill is to make Texas an overall safer place. By banning sanctuary cities, the federal and local governments relationship is stronger, immigrant criminals will stay off the streets, and nobody’s rights will be violated. When Abbott signed the bill, he had no idea how much controversy it would spark. There were countless amounts of lawsuits toward the state due to “constitutional violations, threats to state sovereignty as well as encumbering taxpayers with the costs associated with these types of detentions, but most importantly it puts the lives of a particular segment of the population at risk”. In addition to San Antonio and Austin filing a lawsuit against Texas, Mexico also is suing because this law can have an influence their international relationship. Mexico officials claim they have an “undeniable obligation” to serve and protect Mexican citizens who have migrated to The United States. Mexico officials say there should be a correlation between federal and local law regarding immigration. In an amicus brief, Mexican government wrote “Given the importance of the international relationship between the U. S. and Mexico, it is essential that Mexico be able to approach its discussions with one consistent negotiating partner rather than having to enter into 50 different negotiations with each state regarding the type and extent of immigration enforcement that will occur in that state”. It was apparent that SB 4 had many issues and eventually was brought to federal court on June 26, 2017 where a battle over constitutionality began. After much debate over the law, “U. S District Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction of SB4, citing uncertainty around the bill’s constitutionality. Garcia’s ruling stops the bill from going into effect”.

The whole process and idea of SB 4 was a major wake up call to find a better solution on immigration control. The future to find a safe and constitutional immigration policy to benefit everyone is essential in making Texas a better and more intergrated state.

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