Texas’ SB 4 Law Bans “Sanctuary” Policies

Image courtesy of World Travel & Tourism Council

On Sunday, May 7th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott took to Facebook Live to sign a bill that could send Texas police chiefs to jail for trying to keep their cities safe. The law, often referred to as SB 4, bans so-called “Sanctuary Cities” and threatens any dissenting law officers with prison time. The Know-Nothing politics of anti-immigration took a giant step forward.

The new law requires police to arrest anyone they encounter who they know has a non-judicial detainer request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Non-judicial detainers are merely ICE requests and not court orders. The people named in these ICE detainers often have not gone through due process. Most big-city police departments do not typically honor these requests and they are not mandatory under federal law.

According to the Dallas News:

“The law will ban cities, counties and universities from prohibiting their local law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status and enforcing immigration law. It will create a criminal charge for police chiefs, county sheriffs and constables who violate the ban and will charge local jurisdictions up to $25,000 for each day they are in violation. The law will also allow police officers to ask about a person’s immigration status during any legal detention, which could include a routine traffic stop. Opponents have likened the law to Arizona’s ‘papers, please’ legislation, parts of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Frightening immigrants into not cooperating with the police is not a strategy for reducing crime. Police need immigrants to come forward and report crimes. However, fear of the police has been growing since January 20th among immigrants.

There has already been a “Trump Effect” on police/immigrant cooperation. Police around the country report that they have seen immigrants react with greater fear when encountering law enforcement. With the president and attorney general demanding that local police act as ICE agents, immigrants have gotten the message to stay away from the police. Even in cities where local law enforcement protects the confidentiality of immigrants, the perception created by President Trump has damaged the trust of immigrants in the police. For example, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that since the beginning of the year rape reports were down 42% in the Latino community from the same period last year. Women afraid of deportation are no longer going to police after sexual assaults.

Driving immigrants underground does not increase public safety. The criminal who raped or robbed an undocumented person today may attack a U.S. citizen tomorrow. I feel sad that I even have to point that out in 2017.