On Sunday night, Texas governor Greg Abbott wanted to make sure the world saw him sign Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), a new Texas law that Abbott says will ban sanctuary cities in his state.
But this law goes beyond what you might be hearing in the media: that it’s a “ban” on sanctuary cities. If you read the entire bill, you will come across this part of the bill, which sounds a lot like some bills you might heard about in the past (yes, we’re talking about Arizona):
In compliance with Subsection (a), a local entity or campus police department may not prohibit or materially limit a person who is a commissioned peace officer described by Article 2.12, Code of Criminal Procedure, a corrections officer, a booking clerk, a magistrate, or a district attorney, criminal district attorney, or other prosecuting attorney and who is employed by or otherwise under the direction or control of the entity or department from doing any of the following:
(1) inquiring into the immigration status of a person under a lawful detention or under arrest;
(2) with respect to information relating to the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any person under a lawful detention or under arrest, including information regarding the person’s place of birth:
(A) sending the information to or requesting or receiving the information from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or another relevant federal agency;
(B) maintaining the information; or
(C) exchanging the information with another local entity or campus police department or a federal or state governmental entity;
(3) assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable or necessary, including providing enforcement assistance; or
(4) permitting a federal immigration officer to enter and conduct enforcement activities at a jail to enforce federal immigration laws.
Just for those who need more explanation, “a lawful detention or under arrest” can apply to being stopped for a traffic violation. So in other words, if something like that were to happen, no one is telling Texas law enforcement from not asking about immigration status.
And we aren’t the only ones who look at the law that way. Here is what another opponent said a few days ago:
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, predicted that the bill will follow the same course as Arizona’s SB 1070, better known as the “papers please” law because it required law enforcement officers in Arizona to demand the documentation of anyone they believed was in the country illegally.
Texas’ SB 4 doesn’t require officers to ask, but it prohibits sheriffs or police chiefs from keeping their officers from doing so.
“It allows local law enforcement to ask anybody on the street for their immigration status,” said Anchia, who chairs the Democrat-dominated Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is fighting the state in court over redistricting maps it says are racially discriminatory.
As expected, challenges to the law will begin. One group that will take the fight to Abbott? MALDEF.
“MALDEF will do its level best, in court and out, to restore Texas, the state where MALDEF was founded, to its greater glory, and to help Texas to overcome ‘Abbott’s Folly,'” said MALDEF president and general counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement.
On Monday morning in Houston, activists were already protesting the law’s passage:
Later on Monday, Texas filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against challenges.