Texas Anti-Immigrant Law SB4
As has become standard practice in a post 9/11 world the U.S. State Department routinely issues travel warnings and alerts to Americans planning trips abroad. Asked by NCRM for defining the difference between the two, William Cocks, the spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at State answered:
“Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts are different, and they are issued based on the nature of the security situation in a country. We issue Travel Warnings when we want U.S. citizens to consider very carefully whether they should go to a country at all because of a chronic threat. We issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think U.S. citizens should know about when planning travel to a country. Travel Alerts are always issued for a defined period.”
Pretty forthright and crystal clear. But what happens if it’s not a country or region in the globe but a place within the United States itself? That scenario occurred this week and instead of the U.S. Government issuing a warning, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a “travel alert.” The ACLU is informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.
According to Lorella Praeli, ACLU National’s Director of Immigration Policy and Campaigns:
“The alert comes amid the passing of a Texas law known as SB4. The law gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be 'foreign' based on how they look or sound. The travel alert applies to all travelers to Texas, including U.S. travelers from other states and U.S. citizens. In addition, this alert applies to all encounters with federal, state, county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.”
She noted that in addition to the immigration actions undertaken by the Trump administration, the law signed Sunday by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott is a measure designed to punish "sanctuary cities." Reuters reported that the measure also allows police to ask people about their immigration status during a lawful detention, even for minor infractions like jaywalking. Police officials found to be in violation of the law could face removal from office, fines and up to a year in prison if convicted.
"This legislation is bad for Texas and will make our communities more dangerous for all," the police chiefs of cities including Houston and Dallas wrote in an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News in late April. They said immigration was a federal obligation and the law would stretch already meager resources by turning local police into immigration agents.
The police chiefs in Texas also wrote that the new law will widen a gap between law enforcement and immigrant communities, creating a class of silent victims and eliminating the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving or preventing crimes.
Texas State Democrats and the ACLU's have vowed to launch a lawsuit to prevent the law’s enforcement, claiming that could lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and civil rights violations.
“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement. Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life," Praeli said, adding, “Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump’s draconian deportation force.”
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