National Latino Leaders Applaud Texas Judge for Temporary Block on Racial Profiling Law

Aug 31, 2017
12:58 PM
Editor’s Note: The following media release was published on Thursday afternoon:

SB 4 protesters in May during a demonstration in Austin, Texas. Photo by Marco Galaviz Luna (Used with permission)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 45 of the nation’s preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, applauds the decision by Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia to grant a partial preliminary injunction in the Texas SB 4 case, preventing the bulk of the legislation from going into effect on September 1, 2017. The ruling recognizes the validity of the cities and organizations that filed the lawsuit that raised concerns about its constitutionality. Texas SB 4 is a racial profiling law that would lead to rights violations, economic harm, and family separation and would have turned every local law enforcement official into part of Trump’s deportation machine.

This victory is uplifting, but it is just a step toward fully eliminating this unconstitutional piece of legislation. The Latino community, immigrant community, and Texas and national allies are ready to keep fighting the racism and bigotry that is manifested through laws such as Texas’ SB 4. SB 4 would have required local law enforcement to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers, prohibited law enforcement agencies from issuing policies and guidance about immigration enforcement, prohibited elected officials from endorsing policies that contradict SB4 —such as sanctuary city policies— by penalizing them with fines and removal from office, and allowed untrained local police officers to decide to become appendages of ICE.

The preliminary injunction does leave in place provisions that allow police to ask about immigration only when they have a separate non-immigration-related reason to detain someone, and that allow police to share any information obtained with ICE. However, local police are not permitted to arrest, hold, or turn over someone based on information or suspicion about immigration status. That means that anyone questioned by local police about immigration does not have to answer the questions.

“The decision is encouraging and offers relief to millions of Texans who now know that the legislation will not be implemented on September 1. However, the fight does not stop here. We will continue to stand with allies who are fighting for the Latino community and immigrant community across the country to ensure that ‘show me your papers’ legislation is declared inhumane and unacceptable in Texas and nationwide,” said Hector Sanchez Barba, Chair of NHLA and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “Thanks to NHLA members MALDEF and LULAC and all civil rights organizations that challenged the legality of Texas SB 4. This victory would not be possible without the diligence of all those involved directly in the fight on the ground.”

“The order enjoining key portions of SB 4 is a victory against the bigotry and hatred that was the foundation of its enactment,” said Thomas A. Saenz, NHLA Vice Chair and MALDEF President and General Counsel.  “We look forward to litigating all of the many legal claims against the entirety of the law and to seeing the whole of SB 4 finally relegated to the dustbin of history.”

“Judge Garcia reached the only logical conclusion concerning SB 4. The law is unconstitutional and must be blocked before it ruins the lives of our families, all Texans, our economy and our jobs,” said Ben Monterroso, NHLA SB4 Task Force Co-Chair and Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota (MFV). “When this case goes to trial, we believe the conservative-led state Legislature will, again, be found guilty of discriminatory intent in passing SB 4. The courts previously found the Legislature acted with the intention of discriminating against communities of color and immigrants when it approved redistricting maps that diluted the voting strength of minorities, and when it passed a voter ID law designed to intimidate voters. They did the same with SB 4,” Monterroso added.

“SB 4 is a ‘show me your papers’ law on steroids and should have no place in our system of justice. This disastrous legislation is contrary to the rule of law, infringes the free speech rights of Texas public officials, and unduly targets minorities for how the look or speak and not for any crime they have committed. That is why judge Garcia correctly stopped enforcement of this law until the court can properly review the likely unconstitutionality of at least three of its most troublesome provisions. NHCSL is proud to have been the first national Latino group to announce a boycott of the Lone Star State due to this law and we will keep fighting until it is struck down or overturned,” said NHLA SB 4 Task Force Co-Chair and Executive Director of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) Kenneth Romero-Cruz. “While judge Garcia did not enjoin police and other officers from inquiring as to immigration status during a legal detention, we urge officers to keep their vital community role in mind and voluntarily refrain from doing so. This way local police will not get a reputation as immigration agents,” concluded  Romero-Cruz.

“Our community organized, mobilized, sued and prevailed. Today, Latino families in Texas can breath a little easier, knowing they do not need to hide in the shadows or live in fear under a law that makes them vulnerable to discrimination simply because of how they look. This victory demonstrates our community’s cumulative power to combat unconstitutional laws that discriminate against Americans based on their skin color, separate families, target the most vulnerable, and damage public safety. Last night’s court decision sends a clear message to other states considering similar discriminatory legislation that racial profiling will not be condoned, said Maria Teresa Kumar, member of NHLA’s SB 4 Task Force and President and CEO of Voto Latino.

“We applaud this important decision in which the judge recognized that there was overwhelming evidence provided by local officials and local law enforcement that SB 4 would erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe,” said Rosie Hidalgo, Senior Director for Public Policy at NHLA member Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network. “It is important for communities to be able to set policies that ensure access to safety and services for all members of the community, rather than coerce local law enforcement to become further entangled with federal immigration enforcement.”

“President Trump has again chosen to appease the bigots in his base rather than do what it is the best interests of the country. This decision is not just short-sighted, it’s unspeakably cruel and gratuitous.  Republican congressional leadership must act now to enact relief for these young people who contribute to our country every single day and have done what America has asked of them. Congress has the power to fix this, and there’s bipartisan legislation on the table to get it done. It’s time to translate injustice into action,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NHLA Member UnidosUS.