by Cheryl Piccio, ABS-CBN News
HOUSTON, TX — While appearing on Facebook live on Sunday, May 7, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, making it clear: undocumented immigrants are not welcome in his state.
Texas’ SB-4, is similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, widely known as the “Show Me Your Papers” law, which authorizes law enforcement to inquire about immigration status during any police detentions. Officials refusing to comply can be heavily fined and face prison time, as well as removal form elected or appointed office.
The bill aims to end so-called sanctuary cities in the state which has likewise been a signature goal of the Trump administration.
SB-4 requires local police to enforce federal immigration law. It also lets local police question people about their immigration status during arrest or any type of detention, such as during a traffic stop. Victims and witnesses to crimes could be asked about their immigration status as well.
The law’s supporters say it is designed to boost public safety, by enforcing laws that are already in place.
Immigrant rights groups say the new law would scare both legal and illegal immigrants and make Texas less safe, because those communities will want to avoid police, and thus report fewer crimes.
Laws enforcement officials share that concern and believe the law will have a much greater effect in the larger cities of Texas, where anti-immigration fear has already affected the rate of crime reporting.
One of the largest civil rights groups in the US, the American Civil Liberties Union, has issued a “travel advisory” for the state of Texas warning visitors that they could be victims of violations of their constitutional rights.
Last week, Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner held a community discussion on immigration where he spoke of his resolve for the city of Houston to remain open and inclusive.
“I can’t necessarily speak to what happens on the national level, or what happens on the state level, but I can speak to how we are going to govern on the municipal level,” said Turner. “HPD is not ICE, and we don’t profile people. We will not do that.”
The legal fight over the law has already begun, as various civil rights groups gear up to file suit in federal court over the constitutionality of SB-4.