tags: Press Releases

“Open Season on People of Color” – Texas Anti-Immigrant Bill to Turn State Police Into Police State of Immigration Agents

Share This:

Washington, DC – State and national voices are highlighting the dangers and radicalism of the latest anti-immigrant idea emanating from Texas Republicans. Among a grab bag of state legislation being advanced by Texas Republicans, and likely heading to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature, includes a bill that would give state law enforcement officers new mandates to arrest people they suspect are in the state illegally – like other “papers, please” legislative proposals, the legislation would likely lead to racial profiling and make it more difficult for law enforcement to do actual community policing that relies on mutual trust and cooperation.  

A host of state and national voices have been strongly condemning the legislation and its potential dangers, including:

    • Texas State Representative Rep. Armando Walle gave an impassioned speech to his Republican colleagues after the bill passed, saying, “I’ve been in the Legislature 16 years and over time there has been this salacious appetite to feed Republican primary voters by demonizing border issues… “Y’all don’t understand the s— that you do hurts our community. It hurts us personally, bro. It hurts us,” he said. “It hurts us to our f—ing core and y’all don’t understand that. Y’all don’t live in our f—ing skin.” 
  • U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) said in a lengthy Twitter/X thread, “Throwing money at a broken system isn’t a credible, serious proposal. We’re seeing legislators push right-wing ideas because Congress has failed to act. We need legislative solutions that meet the challenges of today while keeping in mind those of the future.”
  • Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights: “Senate Bill 4 is a broad smuggling offense provision that will be used as a vehicle for the mass criminalization and incarceration of vulnerable border and immigrant communities. Under this legislation, a person driving their undocumented grandfather, parent, classmate, or neighbor to the store, doctor’s office, or church will be charged and given a mandatory minimum of 10 years of prison sentence. These unjust, racist, classist, and punitive criminal sentences pose an extensive threat to the civil rights of people of color, border, and immigrant residents in Texas, as these punishments far exceed the common penalty under federal law.”
  • Jennefer Canales-Pelaez, Texas policy attorney and strategist for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said: “The way that the law is written is just so vague, so essentially it is just open season on people of color throughout the state of Texas.”  
  • Robert Heyman, Strategic Advisor at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, in the El Paso area said, “HB 4, in particular, undermines and short-circuits the asylum process, harming vulnerable people in need. It eliminates due process, including fundamental rights prohibiting detention without an arrest and trial. It will shatter Texas’ communities…Bills like HB 4 and HB 6, rest on the idea that deterrence and locking up our neighbors are solutions.”
  • Alexandra Villarreal, San Antonio resident and Policy & Advocacy Associate at the National Immigration Forum, noted in a letter opposing the Texas laws: “Taken together, these federal and state attempts to deter migration through criminal prosecutions have cost many billions in taxpayer dollars, harmed families, frustrated frontline officials, and achieved little in terms of solving the real challenges at the Texas-Mexico border. Still, H.B 4 goes further, giving peace officers the authority to ‘remove’ someone who enters unauthorized by transporting them to a port of entry and ordering them to cross into Mexico.”
  • Javier Hidalgo, spokesperson for RAICES, the Texas immigrant legal services organization said, “Our service providers have witnessed the traumatic outcomes of cruel policies, like Operation Lone Star, on the families and people we serve. We can not overstate this enough – these bills, if passed, will directly harm our clients and our Texas community…We also know that tragedy always follows cruelty. Should these bills become law, we will almost certainly witness additional horrors like further family separation at our border and the criminalization and removal of those seeking their legal and human right to seek asylum.”
  • Bob Libal, Texas consultant to Human Rights Watch, said “The crime of illegal entry already exists in federal law…Besides being duplicative, this callous proposal is totally contrary to human rights standards that prohibit governments from deporting refugees to persecution or punishing refugees for illegal entry. State police are not qualified to hear asylum claims or deport people. Their job is to protect public safety.”
  • Kristin Etter, attorney for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, said, “The mandatory minimum proposal could imprison thousands of young Texans — some in high school and college — for non-violent offenses, many of them simply for driving migrants, that would cause them to serve at least 10 years in prison…It is truly shocking. Murder and rape charges do not even carry these kinds of mandatory minimum sentences.” Etter went on to note that contrary to what “smuggling” means in ordinary parlance, the breadth of the statute means people can be charged simply for having a passenger in their vehicle: 

“These are overwhelmingly young people — college and high school age…I have a client who is a 9th grader. I also have a client who was accused of smuggling for driving his uncle in a car. Most of our clients are not actually concealing or hiding people but are arrested for solely driving undocumented people in their vehicles in the border area…The proposed mandatory minimum would require a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence based solely on the prosecutor’s charging decision. In doing so, mandatory minimums transfer sentencing power from judges to prosecutors.”