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Misguided Bill Bans Sanctuary Cities in Texas

Law Essentially Turns Law Enforcement Officers Into Immigration Officers

A police officer walks past people as they gather to protest against the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas, U.S. January 28, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill banning policies associated with so-called sanctuary cities in the state.

Texas Senate Bill 4, one of the nation’s strictest laws on sanctuary cities, compels local law enforcement to honor requests – called detainers – by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold people beyond the time they would be held for any criminal charges. Texas police who won’t comply could face criminal and civil penalties, including jail time.

This law would essentially turn local law enforcement into immigration enforcement officers. Many local law enforcement agencies around the country have declined to honor these requests, citing both concerns around their constitutionality and their desire that immigrant communities trust police.

Its backers claim the bill will keep communities safe, but this contention is rooted in the false notion that increased immigration leads to increased crime – something numerous studies have debunked. In fact, the bill will likely have the opposite effect, sewing mistrust and fear of police among immigrant communities. There are already reports from law enforcement around the country showing that immigrants who are victims of crime are more afraid to report abuse. The Texas Police Chiefs Association and the Texas Major Cities Chiefs have opposed the bill for this very reason, saying the bill will “create a class of silent victims.”  

The bill will likely face legal challenges. Key provisions of Arizona’s infamous “paper please” SB 1070 law, which required authorities to ask for documentation of anyone they believed was in the country illegally, were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012 on the basis that certain sections were preempted by federal law.

Texas already leads all US states in honoring ICE detainer requests, according to statistics compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

This bill is both unwise and unnecessary. And sadly, it will do nothing to keep communities safer.

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