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Texas: The New Arizona on Immigration

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Draconian SB4 Legislation Set to Increase Racial Profiling, Undermine Public Safety and Persecute Children, Immigrants and Immigrant-Friendly Communities

Last week, the Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 4, the Texas immigration bill that is the supersized version of Arizona’s infamous, “show me your papers” law SB 1070. It is expected to be merged with an already-approved State Senate version of the bill and head to the desk of its biggest booster, Governor Greg Abbott. While SB4 has been framed as legislation to stop so-called “Sanctuary Cities” policies, which is dangerous enough, its scope has been amended and expanded to take it an even more virulent and nativist direction.

What SB4 would do

Texas’s SB4 likely now stands alone as the worst piece of anti-immigrant state legislation we’ve encountered. Among its provisions, SB4 would:

  • Through a noxious “show me your papers” provision, the legislation will promote racial profiling and discrimination against those who might be perceived to be immigrants – even if they are U.S. citizens. According to the Associated Press, the legislation includes a provision to ensure “that law enforcement across the country’s second-largest state can inquire if people are in the country illegally during traffic stops and other fairly common interactions — which opponents say will spark the kind of immigration crackdown that the Trump administration has so far been unsuccessful implementing nationally.”
  • Target children by allowing “police officers to question children about immigration status … [and allowing] the detention facilities to detain children who are seeking asylum for much longer than what is currently allowed,” according to the Texas Observer.
  • Mandate fines and jail time for elected officials and law enforcement agents who don’t comply with the regulations: “An entity failing to follow the law could be subjected to a civil penalty of $1,500 for a first offense and $25,500 for any subsequent violation”
  • Terrorize the most vulnerable populations, by allowing immigration enforcement at “domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, pre-kindergarten schools, and public school events, according to KXAN.

Op-eds and editorials against SB4

As evident by the vocal opposition to the bill from police chiefs in Texas’s major cities, SB4 will undermine public safety, exhaust the limited resources available to local law enforcement, and sever the trust between police and the community. In a public statement, the chiefs of Austin, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio state:

SB 4 is not the answer to immigration reform; rather it is political pandering that will make our communities more dangerous.

From its location in the Rio Grande Valley, The Monitor editorial board sums it up this way:

Time and again, local law enforcement have told us of the importance of maintaining open lines of communication with the public; of having the public’s trust so that people willingly will come forward and give information on cases, or seek help when victimized. That trust and openness must continue in our region, for the sake of all our safety.

…if it passes muster with both chambers, the legislation is expected to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared this an emergency measure for this 85th Legislative Session. If that happens, we fear many in the Valley will live in fear. But we also fear that the nature of law enforcement will subtly change for the worse.

Effects of SB4, the Texas immigration bill

Aside from the varied social consequences, this draconian legislation will likely have widespread and negative economic effects on the state. After Arizona passed SB1070, the state was tainted as an unwelcoming state. Cities, sports leagues, musicians, and others boycotted Arizona, ultimately leading to the loss of $490 million in tourism revenue in a single year, along with the loss of 3,000 tourism-related jobs. Another worst-in-class anti-immigrant state bill, Alabama’s HB56, cost the state up to $11 billion, resulted in the loss of some 140,000 jobs in the state, and harmed Alabama’s fiscal health to the tune of $357 million in lost state and local taxes (per a University of Alabama study). Texas seems to be heading right into a similar storm. Its reputation, its attractiveness as a place to do business, and its reliance on nearly 900,000 immigrant workers who fuel the state’s economy will all be put at risk when the Governor signs this legislation into law.

Advocates sit-in against SB4 for 10 hours

Just yesterday, a group of brave activists in Texas committed civil disobedience to bring attention to the radical nature of this legislation. As the New York Times reported:

The protesters called for Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the bill, which would require police chiefs and sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials or face jail time and fines.

The protesters and their supporters filled the lobby of the State Insurance Building here, an annex of the governor’s office, singing and clapping and chanting, “Stand up, fight back!” Many wore white T-shirts reading “S.B. 4,” for Senate Bill 4, with a slash drawn through it. State troopers stood quietly nearby.

About an hour into the protest, participants sat down and blocked the two lobby entrances, defying a police request.

‘It’s important for us to block both doors to show the governor we’re not afraid,’ said Greg Casar, an Austin city councilman who is the son of Mexican immigrants and led the protest.

The sit-in came to an end more than nine hours after it started when state troopers formally arrested the 22 protesters after the close of the workday, placed them in handcuffs and called in a magistrate to arraign them on charges of criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Frank Sharry: SB4 “terrifying” and “despicable”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The combination of ‘unshackled’ federal deportation force agents on the one hand, and state-mandated collusion with those agents by local jurisdictions on the other, could result in one of the darkest chapters in American history. Texas has a population of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, second only to California. The prospect of a Trump-Abbott mass deportation strategy taking root is as terrifying as it is despicable. People of goodwill from throughout America, and from throughout the world, are not going to stand by in silence as the state of Texas unleashes a campaign of discrimination against people, including U.S. citizens, based on their skin color, national origin or accent. Nor are they going to continue embracing a state that is about to unleash a campaign of terror aimed at immigrant families with deep roots in the state. Governor Abbott should think long and hard before making Texas a pariah.

See photos from yesterday’s civil disobedience here. 

Read more about SB4 here.