Despite fierce blowback from immigrants and their allies in the state, a Republican-led Texas House shamefully approved an anti-sanctuary cities bill that amounts to nothing more than a racist, Arizona-style “show me your papers” law meant to terrorize and criminalize hardworking immigrant families:
The Texas House of Representatives voted 93-54 Thursday night to pass a measure banning sanctuary cities which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the state. Alarmingly, the measure also gives law enforcement the power to demand to see the immigration status of anyone they detain—whether or not they are arrested or ever charged with a crime.
The bill, SB 4, essentially forces local jurisdictions to comply with immigrant detainer requests issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A version of the measure was approved by the Texas State Senate in early February.
The bill also “threatens sheriffs, constables and police chiefs that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials with removal from office,” according to reports. “SB 4 is nothing but Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and certain legislators’ hate-filled crusade for mass detention, incarceration and deportation,” said Adonias Arevalo, an organizer with United We Dream. “This bill is a white supremacist’s field day.”
According to the AP, “the vote came just before 3 a.m. and followed 15-plus hours of heated, sometimes tearful debate, much of it from outnumbered Democrats.”
One first term Democrat, State Rep. Victoria Neave, fasted for four days in protest of the legislation:
During a marathon debate session, lawmakers grappled with a provision which would allow local law enforcement officers to request the immigration status not just of those they arrest, but of all detainees, which could include people stopped for simple offenses like jaywalking. Critics have insisted that this will lead to racial profiling in a state where nearly 40% of the population is Latinx. While initially dropped from the House’s bill, one state lawmaker added the provision back as an amendment which, after considerable legislative wrangling, was pushed through by the House’s Freedom Caucus members, the Dallas Observer reported.
“We aren’t exaggerating when we say that the people who will be empowered by this amendment will be the criminals,” warned one Democrat. “We’re not exaggerating … when we say the people who will feel the biggest effects of this are the most vulnerable, the women, the children, the survivors of sexual assault, rape, human traffickers, the people who will feel the disconnect from law enforcement, the people who are supposed to make them safe.”
Earlier this month, five Texas sheriff warned that “SB 4 goes wrong because it fundamentally functions on the assumption that the state government knows what is best for our local communities; it ignores our familiarity with our own cities and counties, and how to keep them safe,” hurting the most vulnerable, like children, in the process.
“Members of our immigrant communities should know that you are welcome in Texas and you’re not alone,” said the ACLU of Texas in a statement. “The ACLU stands ready to fight the inevitable excesses and abuses of this inhumane, wasteful, hateful bill.” Immigrant organizers in the state are already planning protests against the legislation, which must first be reconciled by the Texas House and Senate before it goes to Abbott for his signature.
“When our immigrant community is under attack we unite and we fight back,” said undocumented organizer Karla Perez. “Our diverse communities will continue to organize and build our networks of local defenses across the state to move us forward. This is our resilience, this is our strength, and this is our home — we are here to stay.”