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Texas Immigrants, Advocates, Legal Experts Outline Steps Forward After Fifth Circuit Court Ruling on Anti-Immigrant Law SB4

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The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released its ruling on Senate Bill 4 (“SB4”) to vacate most of Judge Orlando Garcia’s preliminary injunction on the bill. The panel’s decision means that certain provisions of SB4, the anti-immigrant and discriminatory law, will go into effect. Importantly, today’s ruling did reiterate that the implementation of SB4 could expose local jurisdictions to constitutional violations.

On a press call today, immigrants, advocates, and legal experts analyzed the ruling and outlined the path forward to protect all Texas residents.

Efrén Olivares, Racial & Economic Justice Director, Texas Civil Rights Project, said: “The decision is a blow to the civil rights of every Texan. Millions of immigrants and people of color face the prospect of unlawful racial profiling and discrimination. But we are not deterred. We knew this was going to be a long fight when we started and we are prepared to go the distance. This ruling explicitly emphasizes that the implementation of SB4 must still follow the Constitution and is not a blank pass for police officers to ask everyone about their immigration status. We urge community members to know their rights and contact us if they face civil rights violations. At the same time, it is now incumbent of every single city and county in Texas to ensure that they abide by our constitutional principles and take steps to ensure that discretionary arrests do not lead to deportation and the breaking up of families.”

Angie Junck, Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said, “What the Fifth Circuit Court left standing of SB 4 guarantees that Texas police will continue to unfairly target, racially profile and criminalize people of color, who make up nearly half of Texas residents. The reality in Texas is that communities of color, citizen and noncitizen alike, are already being harmed by an over reliance on incarceration. Laws like SB 4 ramp up that punishment by turning jails into yet another gateway to deportation. This decision underscores two important needs: to reform the criminal justice system in Texas to protect all communities of color, including immigrants, and and for cities and counties to take a public stance against racist laws like SB 4 that seek to exclude rather than welcome.”

Julieta Garibay, co-founder, Texas Director, United We Dream, said, “I migrated with my mother and sister 26 years ago. As an undocumented individual, I grew up in Austin and was very afraid. I began organizing with Texas youth, and that’s when I knew I was not alone. Let me be clear, yesterday’s decision from the courts comes as no surprise to us. We know which Texas legislators voted for racial profiling, for criminalizing, for terrorizing, detaining and deporting black and brown immigrants when they voted to pass SB4. These same legislators knew Governor Abbott would sign racism into law and knew that the 5th Circuit would side with them.  We know that an organized community is what will defeat the hate and racism that is trying to overtake Texas and the country. Texas is our home, and we are here to stay and here to fight!“

Bob Libal, Executive Director, Grassroots Leadership, said, “In the wake of this week’s ruling, local officials need to act swiftly to stop the arrest-to-deportation pipeline that will be accelerated by SB4. They can start by enacting policies that end discretionary arrests while ensuring that scarce public resources are not wasted on unnecessary immigration enforcement actions that terrorize the immigrant community.”

José P. Garza, Executive Director, Workers Defense Project and Workers Defense Action Fund, said, “Families are fed up with the injustices like those introduced in SB4.  We will continue to fight to make Texas the state it can be. We will fight SB4 in the streets, in the courts, and in the ballot box. This bill was introduced at the state capitol but after it was signed Texas families mobilized in an effort to sue the state. Today, Texas families are calling on our local officials and law enforcement to protect us. For too long, Texas children have feared their families will be separated. For too long, law enforcement has criminalized immigrants. Texas depends on immigrant families and we will continue to fight for them and for a better Texas.

Michelle Tremillo, Executive Director, Texas Organizing Project, said “I helped found TOP to fight injustice for people of all colors and backgrounds. SB4 breathes new life to oppression, harassment and intimidation of all people of color.  We recognize that SB4 is a fight for the heart of Texas, for our identity as a state that draws its strength from its diversity. We will not be bowed by this decision. Today, we’re calling on our local officials and law enforcement to do everything in their power to protect our immigrant communities by stopping the arrest and deportation pipeline. This decision also sharpens our resolve to change the face of our state government so that it reflects its racial and economic diversity. SB4 happened because our state government does not look like Texas. Women and people of color are too few. Yesterday’s decision was awful. We’re still trying to catch our breaths after that punch in the gut. But we won’t lose sight of the progress we’ve made and are continuing to make within our cities and counties. We’ll keep fighting because we know that our vision of an inclusive, just and welcoming Texas will ultimately prevail.”