A federal judge has temporarily blocked parts of Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4), a controversial state law that targets so-called sanctuary cities, or cities (and counties) that refuse to cooperate with the federal government’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. According to the court order, SB4’s objectives have given local officials and the Hispanic community reason to worry about “racial profiling and increased frequency of ICE raids.”
What Is SB4?
Signed into law on September 1, SB4 allows local law enforcement officials to look into the immigration status of arrested individuals, even if this has nothing to do with their offense or involvement in any criminal activity.
It also gives the state authority to punish elected state and city officials, local government department head, and law enforcement officers who refuse to cooperate with “federal immigration detainers”—requests to hand over suspected undocumented immigrations to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation.
Those in violation of SB4 would face jail time and penalties over $25,000 per day, while police officers who speak out against the state law would face prosecution for what is the equivalent of a Class A misdemeanor.
How Will SB 4 Affect Texas Communities?
Immigration rights advocates argue that SB4 could lead to a dramatic increase in unfair racial profiling. In addition, they fear that Texas communities with a high concentration of immigrant residents, like Austin, would actually become less safe, as undocumented immigrants would now avoid calling the police for fear of their status being questioned, even if they themselves are the victim of a crime. Criminals may even end up targeting undocumented immigrants, knowing they would hesitate to call the police.
Already, local police departments have reported a drop in Latinos reporting crime, especially for domestic violence.
In a statement released by Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, “Senate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Legislature to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a release the ruling would allow dangerous criminals and gang members to be “set free to prey upon our communities.”
For further updates on SB4, be sure to follow this blog. If you, or a loved one, have been a victim of racial profiling or questionable detention because of your immigration status, talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices to speak with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle about your rights.