Thursday, May 11, 2017

Texas' anti-immigrant law challenged in the courts

Texas State Rep. Gene Wu fought his emotions in  his statement against SB 4.

AS EXPECTED, Texas Gov, Greg Abbott signed SB 4 last Sunday, May 7, a bill that many contend is anti-immigrant and unconstitutional.

SB 4, known as the Sanctuary Cities law, strips local communities of their power to set local law enforcement policies regarding the treatment of immigrants and mandates that Texas local law enforcement agencies respond to unconstitutional immigration detainer requests. 

Although largely aimed at people who cross over the U.S. border shared with Mexico, the bill would affect anybody who "looks" like an immigrant or police "suspect" might be an undocumented immigrant. In other words, don't expect Canadians and Europeans to be asked to "show their papers."

"Senate Bill 4 is a solution in search of a problem," said State Representative Gene Wu, who gave an emotional argument against the bill. "This is a bill that has been crafted out of fear and hatred of immigrants ... The bill as passed, would not just detain criminals, but would target children, victims of crimes, and even immigrants who served in our armed forces." 

"In Texas, 8 percent of undocumented immigrants are from Asian countries, so the fear of mass deportations is a reality in the Asian community," said John Yang, President and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a national civil rights organization, speaking at a press conference today.

SB 4 allows local law enforcement to ask individuals who are lawfully detained (even for a traffic stop) about their immigration status. Essentially, SB 4 requires Texans to “show their papers.”
AAAJ joins the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). the League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  in condemning the proposed law) which would go into effect in September. Both civil rights organization are planning to challenge the law in court.

"This is a frivolous legal action, filed precipitously and without basis in the law," said Thomas A Saennz, president and general council of MALDEF. 

“SB 4 is constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a prepared statement explaining why he filed the lawsuit, in which Austin, Travis County and the county's sheriff, Sally Hernandez, are named as defendants. “SB 4 guarantees cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement to protect Texans. Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that SB 4 is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is cautioning people against traveling to Texas, after the state passed SB4, They vow to challenge the law in the courts.

“This law will create distrust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect, which is why the police chiefs of several of Texas’ largest cities voiced concerns about the bill," said Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

"And, when other states enacted similar anti-immigrant measures, their economies suffered as companies and tourists chose to spend their money elsewhere. We welcome efforts to strike down this reprehensible anti-immigrant law in the courts.”
If Paxton's preemptive lawsuit was meant to scare away opponents, it seems to have backfired.

Yesterday, May 9, The League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo sued the state of Texas on Monday, claiming that SB 4 has failed to properly define a “sanctuary city,” and that the city and county — both on the border with Mexico — have kept their residents safe by choosing to operate as sanctuaries since 1999.

El Cenizo, in Webb County, has about 3,300 residents, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit claims that “Plaintiffs are safer when all people, including undocumented immigrants, feel safe when their local law enforcement officers can be trusted for reporting crimes or just speaking with them about issues in the community."

"SB 4 impermissibly extends immigration enforcement to local officials by forcing local government entities to cooperate with immigration enforcement efforts in a way that violates federal law both constitutionally and statutorily," said the LULAC complaint. 

In response to the lawsuit, Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar said he and his colleagues are being sued for questioning the constitutionality of “this immoral and unethical law.”

“Texas’ top leaders are trying to coerce local elected officials into betraying our immigrant communities,” Casar wrote. “They cannot crush our solidarity or our Constitution.”

The city of Austin said in a response they have opposed this legislation from the beginning. “Our law enforcement professionals have told us this legislation will make our community less safe by degrading the relationship between our residents and the police who protect them.”

"When I first spoke on this bill I couldn’t stop thinking about my boys," said Wu. "This bill and other laws like it are a constant reminder that, despite being born in this nation, they will be seen as outsiders because of the way they look; that the law will treat them with suspicion; and they will have to fight just to be treated equally. I was reminded that this is not the first time laws were passed against immigrants based on fear and hatred. And, it will not be the last."

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