The Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) was passed by the House on Wednesday May 3 and signed on Sunday evening by Texas Governor Greg Abbot. The bill requires Texas law enforcement to comply with the federal government’s immigration laws and aid in enforcing them. After intense resistance of federal immigration policy from law enforcement in many states, the bill stipulates that officers will face the risk of penalties and fines for failure to observe these laws— effectively ending sanctuary cities within the state of Texas. The bill will go into effect September 1st of 2017.
Senate Bill 4 will allow officers to ask the immigration status of anyone in question, including those stopped for minor traffic violations. Any information gathered may then be passed on to federal immigration officers, and physical access to anyone detained by police may be granted. This new role gives local law enforcement the power to act in lieu of immigration officers.
Many Texas law enforcement officers (especially in the liberal-leaning Austin) have been part of the hefty resistance against this bill. Much of the pushback comes from worry about the safety of their cities, as they fear that immigrant victims of crime will become more reluctant to come forward and seek police assistance— potentially a very dangerous consequence. This bill will add another aspect to the increasingly tense climate between civilians and law enforcement officers.
Our Verdict: The constitutionality of SB4 is questionable, and the resistance facing the bill has been strong. As the bill was just signed today, it will be interesting to see the next steps taken by the opposition and whether the issue will go to court. The implications of this bill are far reaching, as it sets precedent for other states to follow suit.