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One week ago, more than one thousand people descended on the Texas Capitol to stand against the state’s anti-immigrant “show me your papers” law, SB4, which will allow for racial discrimination against people of color across the state.
In a new piece for The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer reviews the intense reactions from Texas police chiefs and sheriffs, who have stressed that this law will make communities less safe by driving immigrants further into the shadows and by making them too fearful to report crimes that they are victims of or witnesses to.
El Paso County, the cities of San Antonio, Austin, and El Cenizo, are already suing the State of Texas based on arguments that SB4 is unconstitutional, and pressure is building for other cities to join the fight against Gov. Abbott and Texas.
According to Mario Carrillo, State Director at America’s Voice Texas:
Local law enforcement agents and sheriffs know that what’s best for their communities is for officers not to serve as federal immigration agents. Building trust with communities is paramount to keeping them safe, and SB4 will only sow fear and distrust between immigrant families and those meant to serve and protect them and will cause irreparable harm to all Texans.
“Why Police Chiefs Oppose Texas’s New Anti-Immigrant Law” is excerpted below and available online here.
This sort of provision—often called a “show me your papers” law—has been attempted at the state level before, most notoriously in Arizona, which passed a measure in 2010 that was subsequently blocked in federal court. In response to the new law, civil-rights groups and several Texas city governments have filed lawsuits against the measure.
Texas’s law, known as Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4), is in some ways even harsher than the one Arizona passed seven years ago: the new measure allows state authorities to punish any police chief or sheriff who tells his or her subordinates not to act as de-facto immigration agents. Violators face steep fines (a thousand dollars for the first offense and up to twenty-five thousand dollars thereafter) as well as potential removal from office. For this, and other reasons, some of the most vocal critics of S.B. 4 are leaders of the state’s law-enforcement community.
Police chiefs have been speaking out against the bill since it was introduced in the State Senate, last fall. “It’s kind of amazing that, during the initial hearing, the senators had all these chiefs and sheriffs from across Texas speaking against the bill—and they totally ignored the people in law enforcement,” the El Paso County sheriff, Richard Wiles, told me this week.
There is no set definition of what makes a sanctuary city—different cities have instituted their own immigrant-friendly laws and guidelines—but the Administration was trying to compel local officials to do more to help federal immigration agents.
After Trump issued the order, Sally Hernandez, the sheriff of Travis County, Texas, publicly criticized it. “We cannot afford to make our community less safe by driving people into the shadows,” she said at the time.