May 9, 2017
AUSTIN, TX – On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB4, the “sanctuary cities bill” into law. Among other things, this bill gives law enforcement officials the discretion to inquire as to the immigration status of anyone they lawfully detain, including during routine traffic stops. SB4 also requires law enforcement to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities and to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects in jail for ICE arrest, detention, and possible deportation.
SB4 raises a number of grave constitutional concerns ranging from equal protection to federal preemption that many of our partners in the advocacy community have voiced since its drafting, and we echo those concerns. We also believe that the bill reflects a cynical attempt by state law makers to play politics at the expense of the discretion of local law enforcement officials. However, as a leading immigration legal service provider in the region, our principal concern is the potential chilling effect that SB4 will have on communication between the immigrant community and law enforcement. Our agency works with hundreds of immigrant survivors of crime each year. While the bill signed into law this Sunday does allow for exemptions from inquiring about immigration status for victims and witnesses, our experience shows that when faced with the specter of being arrested, detained, and potentially separated permanently from their loved ones members of the immigrant community will elect to err on the side of caution and limit their interactions with law enforcement.
In light of the reckless fearmongering that has driven SB4 from the beginning, we also want to reiterate that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans and that increased immigration may have actually contributed to declining crime rates overall across the country. Through their participation in federal government initiatives such as the U and T Visa programs, immigrant victims of crime provide critical information used by law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting crime. We fear that immigrant participation in these programs will decrease significantly under SB4. Conversely, large-scale immigration enforcement, such as that envisioned by SB4, has been shown to promote social and economic instability.
American Gateways strongly opposes SB4 and the devastating impact it will have on the immigrant community. We remain hopeful that, through litigation in the courts, we will ultimately see an outcome based on justice and constitutional principles rather than politics.