An Immigration Attorney and an Activist Scholar Explain Why SB4 is a Terrible Idea and What You Can Do to Stop It.

Reposted with permission from Indivisible Austin

By Mark Kinzler kinzlerimmigration.com and Shaun Glaze, M.S

girl-flag-croppedImage courtesy Flickr user jvoves https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/138556236

Why the “Sanctuary Cities” bill must be opposed and how to do it effectively

Texas Senate Bill No. 4, or “a bill relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of state and federal laws governing immigration and to the duties of law enforcement agencies concerning certain arrested persons” was introduced by Texas state senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and seeks to require law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Texas to assist and participate in the investigation and determination of the legal status of immigrants who come into their custody. Generally, the job of arresting, detaining, and deporting immigrants is carried out by a branch of the Department of Homeland Security called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (commonly referred to as “ICE”). SB4, was born from the current storm of anti-immigrant sentiment, with great support from Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who are commonly known to make factually questionable and often clearly disingenuous statements about immigration problems in Texas. SB4 is misguided for several reasons:

  1. Public Safety – Cooperation agreements between ICE and law enforcement agencies have existed for many years. Nevertheless, the agreements are not mandatory, and different law enforcement agencies have been able to choose their level of involvement with ICE officials. Many LEAs throughout the U.S. have chosen to have minimal cooperation with ICE. Though there are several reasons often cited by the LEAs for the choice to provide minimal cooperation, one very common reason is the fact that the LEA’s cooperation with ICE actually damages the ability of the LEA to properly investigate and prosecute crime. In areas with high populations of immigrants, trust between the immigrant community and the LEA is crucial to the ability of the LEA’s fundamental task of protecting and serving the community as a whole. If the immigrant community is aware that the LEA readily cooperates with ICE, or is legally required to assist ICE in its efforts to apprehend deportable persons (a la SB4), members of that community will be fearful of cooperating with the LEA. When members of the community fear having contact with the police, the policy impedes the LEA’s ability to solve local crimes because the effectiveness of that job relies on information from witnesses and statements from victims and other members of the community.
  2. Resources and training of the law enforcement agencies – Local police agencies have an extremely difficult job as it is, and they are often underfunded. Many LEAs do not support cooperation with ICE because it adds another level of investigatory requirement to their already strained workloads and budgets. In order for local officers to properly and lawfully act in a role as an immigration enforcer, the officers would need extensive training in federal and immigration law and would have to increase work hours to comply with the new requirements.
  3. Federal preemption – Under a constitutional principle called federal preemption, state and local authorities are generally not allowed to enforce federal law, particularly when an enforcement procedure is already in place. This is a long-standing principle that has been addressed by several federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy is also reasonable on a practical level because federal authorities are usually in the best position to enforce federal law. Specialization and extensive training is often required to carry out this enforcement due to the complicated nature of the laws being enforced. Also, federal preemption precludes states from enacting their own laws related to federal matters so that overlapping jurisdictions do not end up with conflicting laws on the same matter. Generally, if that happens, the federal law will supersede the state law and the state law will be invalid.

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