SB4 - Unsafe and Unconstitutional

Senate Bill 4, which was packaged and sold by Governor Greg Abbot as a means to improve the safety of Texans, will actually make Texas a more dangerous place for everyone to live. If it had not been temporarily blocked on August 30th, the law would have made it illegal for any city government in Texas to have policy that interferes with the Federal government’s immigration enforcement agenda.

This means that police officers in Texas could demand that any person they suspect of committing any crime show proof of citizenship. If that person does not have proof of their legal immigration status, the officer would be required by law to detain the person as long as ICE deems fit, even if the person had committed no crime.

This basically forces city and state law enforcement entities to do the Federal government’s job for them at the expense of Texas tax payers. By requiring local police officers to be part-time ICE agents, SB 4 not only wastes valuable law enforcement time and resources that would be better spent pursuing actual dangerous criminals, it damages community-police relations which inhibits investigators’ abilities to catch violent perpetrators.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is a strongly opposed to SB 4, as he has witnessed first-hand the problems this new law has caused in communities around Texas before even coming into effect.

“It has created the perception in immigrant communities that police officers are more interested in their immigration status than they are in bringing victims and witnesses to crime out of the shadows and forward. We looked at the data, and what we saw from the first quarter of the year was that overall reporting of crime went up, but when you look at Hispanic names, reporting went down,” Chief Acevedo explained in an interview with TexasGOPVote.

It a separte interview, Acevedo revealed that when comparing HPD's data on reports filed for rape in the Hispanic community during the months of January through March in 2016 to those of 2017, there was a 42.8 percent decrease. This is especially troubling because there was an 8.2% increase in reports filed for rape by non-Hispanics over the same time periods.  

“We’ve created a perception that these folks are not wanted, they’re not valued, we don’t care about them, all they are is property to be used until we no longer need them and then we can deport them, and we’ve seen a chilling effect on people cooperating with the police in Houston,” he said. “If the estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrants in Texas are afraid to give information to investigators that could lead to the apprehension of violent criminals, those criminals will be free to commit more crime that could affect any Texan.”

“When your child or grandchild is at the bus stop and they get kidnapped by a pedophile into a van, if the only witness is that nanny, that day laborer, or that gardener, and they don’t come forward because they are afraid to call 911, explain to me how we’ve enhanced public safety. SB 4 is going to impact all of us negatively,” the Chief said.

If you’re not concerned about the increase in crime SB 4 could cause with its misdirection of law enforcement resources and damage to community-policing strategies, from a conservative standpoint consider that this law is against the principles our great nation was founded upon because it will lead to the violation American citizens’ 1st, 4th and 14th amendment rights.

First of all, the law threatens any member of the governing body of a municipality, police officer, or government attorney who “endorses” any policy that prohibits or materially limits local enforcement of immigration laws. There would be a $1,500 fine for their first offense and $25,500 for each subsequent violation. Not only does this law violate the first amendment free speech clause as it attempts to restrict what American officials can say, it sounds like something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984.

Second, SB 4 will lead to violations of civilians’ 4th amendment rights through unreasonable seizures by requiring that jails comply with all immigration detainers, whether a crime has been committed or not. Detainers can be issued in error, and have even been placed on US citizens.

Thirdly, this law may lead to racial discrimination against Hispanic looking and Spanish speaking people in Texas, regardless of if they are documented our undocumented, violating the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. Although SB 4 has a provision advising against this, it's more likely that Juan gets pulled over and questioned about his immigration status than John.

Even if Juan is an American citizen but lacks the paperwork to prove it at the time, he could be legally detained on “probable cause” of being here illegally. Although the overwhelming majority of police officers are wonderful and ethical people, it's possible this law could encourage a few rogue cops to go out of their way to pull over more Hispanic Americans for minor traffic violations so they can ask about their immigration status.

Much of America’s great success can be attributed to our ability to maintain law and order. Not only will SB 4 negatively affect Texan police officers’ abilities to enforce laws, it violates the Constitution, the single most important document that must be respected to maintain order in The United States of America.

In light of these facts, several cities in Texas filed lawsuits against the State and the law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in San Antonio on August 30th. On September 25th in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel ruled that certain aspects of SB 4 could go into effect, but that some parts must be clarified and reconsidered.

The judges said local authorities cannot prohibit their employees from assisting ICE agents, but it asked for clarification on the part of the law that prohibits “endorsing” policy that “materially limits” enforcement of immigration laws. The judges also decided that the state can force local jails to honor ICE detainers, but only if the detainee cannot provide proof of lawful immigration status.

They also said that local authorities are not required to comply with every request of immigration authorities, but they must adhere to “existing ICE detainer and practice law.” The other aspects of the law are still blocked, but this ruling is only temporary. A final ruling will be made once a separate 5th Circuit panel hears arguments from the state of Texas to let the entire law go into effect. 


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