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Gov. Abbott Plunges Texas into Crisis with ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Law

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Frank Sharry: Texas SB4 law “unconscionable, un-American, and, most likely, unconstitutional”

On Sunday night, in an act of political cowardice designed to avoid mounting protests, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed into law SB4, the virulently anti-civil rights, anti-immigrant, and anti-public safety bill that includes a provision similar to Arizona’s infamous ‘show me your papers’ law.

During his accompanying remarks, broadcasted via Facebook Live, Gov. Abbott called the new law a strike against “those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas” – despite the fact that police chiefs and law enforcement voices in the Lone Star state have been among the most outspoken against the law. Since immigrants will be afraid to report crimes and serve as witnesses, the new legislation will undermine the public safety for all Texans. As the bill authorizes repeated interrogation of people who look or sound like they might have immigrant roots, it will diminish the civil rights of millions. And because it mandates collusion with Trump’s deportation force, the law will accelerate the Trump Administration’s unconscionable attempt to expel millions of hardworking immigrants from the country.

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

SB4 is unconscionable, un-American and, most likely, unconstitutional.

Governor Abbott just put nearly half of the state of Texas on notice that even if your family has lived in the Lone Star state for generations, even if you and your loved ones were born in America, and even if you and your loved ones have served and sacrificed for the country you love, you now will be treated as ‘the other.’ Police will be authorized to ask you to prove your immigration status. This will inevitably bleed into other areas of public life. And what will this inquiry into citizenship status be based on? The color of your skin, the accent of your voice, or perhaps the spelling of your name. America and the world will not stand by quietly while Gov. Abbott and the state of Texas treat people of color as less than full citizens.

Moreover, Abbott’s attempt to facilitate the mass deportation agenda of the Trump Administration by forcing local officials and law enforcement to collude with Trump’s deportation force — under penalty of jail — is aimed at driving 1.5 million hard working immigrants out of the state and out of the country. Abbott and Trump will be judged harshly by history for targeting for expulsion people who are deeply rooted in local communities and indispensable to the economy of Texas.

Should this law be fully implemented, it will brand Texas as a racist state whose Republican leadership is more interested in scoring political points with its nativist base than in building a Texas for all.

The new law, set to go into effect in September, is the latest from Republican-dominated state legislature in Texas with a sordid recent history of passing laws that discriminate against minorities. Federal courts have recently found thatcongressional and state redistricting laws, as well the voter ID law unconstitutional. The courts found that the bills deliberately targeted people of color for discrimination. We hope SB4 will meet a similar fate.

The Texas SB4 ‘show me your papers’ law will:

  • Promote racial profiling and discrimination against those who might be perceived to be immigrants – even if they are U.S. citizens, through the “show me your papers” provision. 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,” according to the Associated Press. Further, elected officials, sheriffs, and police chiefs may be removed from office if it’s found that they are not sufficiently targeting local residents for detention and deportation.
  • 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.
  • Undermine public safety, exhaust the limited resources available to local law enforcement, and sever the trust between police and the community,as evident by the vocal opposition to the bill from police chiefs in Texas’s major cities in op-eds and on camera appearances.
  • Generate widespread and negative economic effects: 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. 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 Governor Abbott signs the bill.