SB4 – the anti-“sanctuary cities” bill
Today the House State Affairs Committee approved a sanctuary cities ban that changes parts of the Senate’s proposal but maintains the bill’s more controversial provisions. But essentially, the bill is unchanged and is heading to the House floor for a full vote.
Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, tried to strike a balance between the bill’s supporters, who want stricter enforcement of immigration laws (e.g., Trump fans, and those who wish to ride the wave of xenophobia and racism while pandering to his alt-right base), and those who are concerned that it punishes local governments too harshly (e.g., cops and everyone else).
SB4 is still unnecessary, racist, cruel, and unconstitutional, and in light of today’s vote, we put this post together to consolidate many of the arguments we’ve heard from law enforcement, legal experts, activists, and religious leaders in one place. All of that below.
We urge you to continue to pressure your House Representatives to oppose SB4 and all of its companion bills: HB 889, HB 611, HB 754, HB 889, and HB 1308.
Please feel free to use this script, or read on for further discussion.
Sample Script A:
“Hi, my name is _________ and I’m calling to urge _________ to go on the record and reject Senate Bill 4. This bill will only increase mistrust in law enforcement, and will do nothing to actually keep us safe. The research shows that legislation like State Bill 4 only drives undocumented crime victims and witnesses into the shadows, and we’ve already seen in the ICE raids in Texas that these deportation raids are not targeting criminals, as over half of the arrests made were of immigrants who didn’t have criminal records, including a woman with a brain tumor being treated for cancer whom agents removed from the hospital, a woman in court who was arrested on a tip by the man who abused her, and hard-working families, now torn apart.
Governor Abbott’s position on sanctuary cities is a cowardly, overt attempt at capitalizing on the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump exploited during his campaign. But that doesn’t have any place in Texas. We, Rep____’s constituents will not forget ______ position on this matter, and urge him/her to get on the right side of history, or we will be voting him out of office when he/she seeks re-election.”
Sample Script B:
Hi, My name is __________. As a concerned constituent of the state of Texas, I urge Representative _______ to oppose SB 4 and all companion bills – HB 611, HB 754, HB 889, and HB 1308. I care about keeping Texans safe and together, this includes my immigrant neighbors. During the SB4 hearing in the House, there were a total of 638 testimonies out of which 619 were against SB4. I urge Representative _________ to listen to the concerns of those 619 testimonies, which represent the concerns of our communities. I urge him/her to also consider the testimony of representatives from law enforcement agencies from around the state, such as Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, that said that this bill will erode public trust in police. In addition, SB4 will lead to racial profiling, which is un-American and un-Texan. Senate Bill 4 goes against our values as Texans and many Texans oppose this bill, including faith, business, and law enforcement leaders, and I would like to ask Representative ____________ to also oppose SB4.
Read our early explainer on SB4 here, have a look through the data and articles below, and read on below.
Sanctuary cities are safer and more productive, with better economies.
The effects of sanctuary policies on crime and the economy.
Sanctuary cities do not experience an increase in crime.
Fact check: Immigration doesn’t bring crime into U.S., data say.
Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: evidence across four decades.
Anatomy of a statistic: do 80% of Americans oppose sanctuary cities?
The myth of the US immigration crisis.
Texas cities see crime rates dropping.
The trouble with immigration detainers.
City of Houston Police Chief’s Message to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Law enforcement Senate State Affairs testimony against SB4.
We know that the reason SB4 is being sold to the public is based on a fallacy. This law does nothing to “make us safe.” With few exceptions, immigrants are far less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates; the data we have from numerous studies is broadly one-sided in support of this fact. The overwhelming preponderance of data tells us that so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have less crime than non-sanctuary cities, and that immigrants commit less crime than natives or have no effect on crime rates. So on its face, SB4 is being sold to the public based on patent falsehoods about “keeping us safe” with zero proof.
If a policy is to change, it should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost crime rate. But not only is SB4 based on false claims about immigrant crime–SB4 Violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Miami-Dade County’s much-criticized decision to allow county jails to hold undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation by federal agents violates the U.S. Constitution, and their decision has already been struck down in federal courThe presiding judge in that case found that the policy violated the Tenth Amendment, which limits the reach of the federal government over states.
Charles Perry and Greg Abbott’s argument in favor of SB4 so far has centered on the fact that elected officials must uphold the “rule of law”. Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Texas Senator or Representative who votes in favor of SB4 are willfully ignoring their duty to uphold the Constitution. You cannot claim to “uphold the Constitution” and uphold the “rule of law” while simultaneously working to undermine it, which is exactly what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and any other Texas Legislator who support this bill are doing.
The judge in the Miami-Dade case wrote: “States cannot cede their reserved powers to the federal government—no, not even if they wish to do so”. Ironically, Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, Dan Patrick–and mega-wealthy donors like Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation behind them who drive the policy decisions of these legislators–constantly claim that they wish to LIMIT what they perceive as federal over-reach, while parroting their love of “liberty”. SB4 exposes their hypocrisy—this law is the very definition of weak capitulation to federal over-reach.
Furthermore, this is a wasteful law—it will only lead to a lengthy court battle, draining state financial resources that could be better spent on things that Texans actually need; and because the law violates the 10th Amendment, it is a legal battle that the State is CERTAIN to lose.
The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” ICE’s Immigration Detainers have been a central point of controversy surrounding laws like this. Central to that controversy around immigration detainers is the prospect of whether states or localities can be held liable for honoring them. In accordance with Form I-247, federal immigration authorities can issue a detainer when they have:
- determined that there is reason to believe the individual is an alien subject to removal from the United States,
- initiated removal proceedings and served a Notice to Appear or other charging document,
- served a warrant of arrest for removal proceedings, or
- obtained an order of deportation or removal from the United States for this person.[viii]
The U.S. Supreme Court has articulated an “anti-commandeering” principle, preventing the federal government from ordering state and local officials to carry out federal regulatory programs.
Mandatory ICE detainers would violate the Tenth Amendment’s “Anti-Commandeering Principle”; the legal precedent set in numerous Supreme Court cases shows that SB4 is plainly illegal.
For example, writing in Printz vs. the United States, Justice Antonin Scalia himself wrote that the federal government “may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”
Essentially, what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott and the members of this Legislature who support SB4 are doing is demanding that our local and state law enforcement agencies abdicate their sovereignty, because Donald Trump told them to—that is cowardly and illegal.
Nobody is suggesting that state and local law enforcement cannot or should not work with federal authorities to make their communities safer. On the contrary, we’ve already heard that SB4 makes Texans less safe, which is surely something that Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, and the proponents of this bill do not want.
In essence, those who parrot support for SB4 would rather risk the lives of our law enforcement officers and the lives of Texans so that they can side with Donald Trump.
Charles Perry and Greg Abbott argument in favor of SB4 so far has centered on the fact that elected officials must uphold the “rule of law”.
Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Texas Senator or Representative who votes–or even speaks–in favor of SB4 are willfully ignoring their duty to uphold the Constitution.
You cannot claim to “uphold the Constitution” and uphold the “rule of law” while simultaneously working to undermine it, which is exactly what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and any other Texas Legislator who support this bill are doing.
Furthermore, law enforcement professionals from across the state are unanimous: SB4 is a bad law that leaves Texans less safe.
Nobody who is arguing against SB4 is suggesting that we should be a country of “open borders”. Of course the U.S. must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration. But that is already happening, and has been for many years; our borders are more secure than they have ever been. That is a fact. It is not an “alternative fact.” It is a fact. In fact, more Mexicans are LEAVING the U.S. than coming to the U.S.
Greg Abbott has claimed that in refusing to kowtow to Trump’s unconstitutional immigration edict, local officials “implement dangerous policies that make it easier for individuals who commit serious crimes to be placed back into our communities”–this is plainly untrue.
Travis county never said they wouldn’t honor requests from federal immigration officials–but they MUST OBTAIN A WARRANT. Travis county and other policing jurisdictions are already following all state and federal laws, and upholding constitutional rights to due process for all in the criminal justice system.
All this law does is waste law enforcement resources that are already stretched thin, and makes it harder for our officers to protect EVERY Texan and devote their resources to REAL crime—like rape, murder, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and gang violence.
This is already a time of strained law enforcement budgets, and critically low jail and prison bed space. This would have a hugely negative detrimental economic impact on our law enforcement agencies, from which many may never recover. Donald Trump is a notorious con man who has ripped off countless people with whom he had legitimate contracts—there’s no way the Federal government will EVER reimburse Texas for the costs incurred in aiding in its unconstitutional mass deportation program.
Law enforcement professionals from across Texas are in unanimous agreement: SB4 leaves Texans less safe. Many Texas lawmakers pay lip service to “backing the blue”; you can’t claim to “back the blue” and then turn around and ignore them. If these lawmakers really wanted to support law enforcement, they would vote NO on SB4 and loudly reject this cowardly, unconstitutional policy of fear.
Law enforcement professionals from across the state are unanimous: SB4 makes it harder for them to do their jobs keeping Texans safe.
Solving and preventing crime is a police department’s mission, and law enforcement has been very vocal in their rejection of SB4. In fact, in testimony before the Senate and House State Affairs committee, we heard from
– Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo
– Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzales
– San Antonio Police Chief, William McManus
– Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso Assistant County Attorney
– McAllen Police Chief, Victor Rodriguez
– El Paso County Judge, Veronica Escobar
– El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Commander, Robert Flores
– Many, many more
The top law enforcement brass in Texas are unequivocal in saying SB4 would undermine an already dangerous job. We’ve already seen that play out, with tragic consequences, as with the case of Irvin Gonzales, a woman in El Paso who arrived at a courthouse and was arrested by ICE on a tip from the man who horrifically abused her. Her ex-boyfriend had brutally beaten her several times, but she’d always been afraid to report him because of her undocumented status.
On February 9th, her worst fears were brought to life. A judge was scheduled to hear her request for a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend; but ICE officers barged into the courthouse and arrested her! She is currently in a detention facility, awaiting deportation. An associate judge, a court bailiff, three assistant county attorneys, and González’s caseworker all confirmed that González had been taken into custody on the tenth floor of the courthouse. The arrest was also captured on tape.
How is arresting the victim of domestic abuse on a tip from her abuser “keeping us safe?” What message does that send to women—not only undocumented women, but all women—who are afraid to speak out about sexual and physical abuse?
The message that Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and supporters of SB4 are sending is: “Hide. Stay silent. Don’t report a crime. Because if you do, we will come after you.”
As Police Chief Art Acevedo pointed out in his testimony to this Legislature’s State Affairs committee, SB4 would “negatively affect and undermine the level of trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities.”
Anything that undermines the work of police also endangers the lives of police. Our community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. Many Texas lawmakers pay lip service to “backing the blue”. But when it came time to put those words into action, despite the overwhelming consensus of the voices of those actually, bravely suit up in blue every day, Charles Perry and the State Affairs committee ignored them, instead sending SB4 to the Senate, where Republican Senators–under the influence of wealthy, hyper-partisan lobbyists–then voted to send it to the house. In showing support for this bill, Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Senator who voted in favor, were willfully IGNORING the law enforcement that they parrot support for. They were, in fact, endangering the lives of Texas law enforcement officers. Anyone who voices support for or votes in favor of Senate Bill 4–in spite of vocal opposition by the same police they pretend to support–is putting their hypocrisy on full display for all to see.