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Texas' SB4: Vicious attack on immigrants

By staff |
September 2, 2017
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Austin, TX - A Texas law known as Senate Bill 4 will take effect Sept. 1, except for the parts blocked by a federal judge. The law will do serious harm to the immigrant community and to other communities as well.

Senate Bill 4, or SB4, is designed to turn local police into immigration enforcement officers.

In every major city in the U.S., and particularly in the parts of the Southwest which have long-established Chicano communities, there is a large population of undocumented people. Police who investigate crimes in these communities rely on members of the community to come forward, whether as victims or as witnesses. When a considerable portion of the population is undocumented immigrants, this is only possible if the police steadfastly avoid enforcing immigration laws.

As a result, many major city police departments have a policy against asking people about their immigration status. Senate Bill 4 makes such policies illegal. It does not go as far as to command police departments to ask this type of question. Rather, it leaves this to the discretion of the individual officers, counting on the fact that a percentage of Texas police officers are more interested in deporting immigrants than in investigating actual crimes.

The law also specifically applies to university police departments. The purpose of this is clear enough: To discourage undocumented people from pursuing higher education.

In addition to all of this, Senate Bill 4 compels local and county jails to cooperate in important ways with immigration police. The law requires jails to allow immigration officers access to inmates, and it creates a criminal offense if jail officials fail to honor a request from the immigration service to hold an inmate.

The bill provides a number of other specific provisions with the same underlying purpose of converting local law enforcement into an arm of the immigration service. The law serves to reinforce the discrimination and inequality visited upon undocumented immigrants. It is squarely aimed at immigrants seeking higher education, and in general is designed to make immigrants more afraid and less likely to complain about crimes committed against them.

Major sections of the law are, for now, blocked by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia. Judge Garcia halted the sections of the law requiring jails to honor immigration holds and prohibiting local governments from policies that "materially limit" the enforcement of immigration laws. Judge Garcia found that these sections of the law violated the rights of the people under the U.S. Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment.

However, he left in place the portion of the law that allows police officers to inquire about the immigration status of people they interact with.

Senate Bill 4 is a vicious attack on the undocumented, as well as Chicanos / Latinos throughout the Southwest – reinforcing the system of racist discrimination the exists in the region’s economic, political, and cultural life. It is a measure that needs to be opposed and exposed.