Legislature passes SB 4; harms public safety, violates due process, diminishes Texas

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez, Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding SB 4: 

For years, whether out of sincere or cynical motives, politicians have conflated immigrants and crime, and have denigrated our border communities as unsafe and out of control. The facts do not bear this out. SB 4 is the culmination of growing anti-immigrant sentiment that emerged fully in the last presidential campaign and has taken root in Texas.

SB 4 was bad when it left the Senate, and did not get better in the House. Texas has completed its transition from the state that welcomed free trade and embraced Mexican and other immigrants only a generation ago into one that disguises discrimination as security. 

How else do you explain it when your top law enforcement officials tell you that a proposal will make communities less safe, as they overwhelmingly did during the debate over SB 4, and yet you persist in passing the bill and saying it’s about public safety? 

Among other things, SB 4 allows local police to make instant decisions about complex federal immigration law, which is a recipe for discriminatory constitutional violations.

Some facts about SB 4:

  • Texas cannot eliminate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure:

o   An ICE request to county jails to detain a person must be based on probable cause that the person is violating immigration law.

o   But these detainers are not issued by an independent judge who reviews them for probable cause. They are issued by immigration officers.

o   Federal courts in other jurisdictions have already held that a county’s compliance with voluntary immigration detainers violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  

  • SB4 coerces local governments and higher education institutions:

o   Creates a separate criminal offense under state law for failure to comply with the bill, making local officials personally liable for performance of each and every law officer working in their jurisdiction.

o   Subjects local entities to Attorney General lawsuits originating from public complaints that may have no merit, eroding community relations and creating unnecessary expense.

o   Singles out the enforcement authority of University Campus police to target students that may be DREAMers or DACA recipients.

  • El Paso County is under a settlement entered in federal court in 2006 that prohibits the county from enforcing civil immigration law. The settlement resulted from traffic checkpoints set up by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department in which it was alleged deputies conducted unlawful searches, seizures and detentions. SB 4 is virtually certain to result in a costly lawsuit for El Paso County, which must choose between a federal settlement agreement and compliance with this new state law.

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José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair).  

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