During recent months, the Texas state legislature has passed legislation designed to eliminate the existence of “sanctuary cities” in Texas.
A Texas sanctuary city is defined as one whose officials and law enforcement may have chosen not to assist in the pursuit and detention of individuals who may be deemed to be present in the United States without proper documentation.
The new law seeks to punish government and law enforcement personnel of any Texas sanctuary city who does not cooperate fully with immigration officials. The legislation also allows law enforcement and immigration officials to request proof of legal residency even when an individual may be reporting a crime.
However, on August 31, a district court judge ruled against the new law, titled Senate Bill #4 (SB4), questioning its constitutionality and clarity and delayed a planned September 1 implementation. Subsequently, however, a panel of three appellate judges ruled that some parts of SB4 could move forward while the case continues to travel through the appeal process.
What Part of SB4 is Approved and in Force?
In a Texas sanctuary city, local officials and police personnel have chosen not to assist in detaining potential undocumented immigrants. The section of the Texas SB4 law that is currently enforceable pertains to penalties to those who continue to withhold assistance or refuse any detainer requests from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
The new law assesses criminal penalties on any police officer or city, county, or state official who refuses to provide the assistance requested by ICE officials. In specific terms, the local officials are expected to honor any detainer request by ICE and inform the detained individual that they are being held at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement until they can be handed over to those appropriate authorities.
Who Is Subject to Punishment Under SB4?
Any police, public, or university officials who do not cooperate with ICE are subject to arrest or fines. Individuals may be removed from their position immediately for violation of this law.
The court did allow that a detainer request may not be honored if the suspect shows clear proof of legal presence.
The law also mandates that authorities can now ask victims or witnesses to any crime for their immigration status. Dallas, Texas, immigrants, regardless of their status, should consider seeking professional legal advice from an immigration attorney to understand their rights should they or their family become involved in a crime as either a victim or witness.
Further, the bill encourages people to report officials who do not comply. If anyone who reports a potential violation is sued as a result, the State of Texas will provide legal support.
What’s Next with Texas SB4?
Not all local officials agree with the law and feel that this can interfere with their authority to manage local law enforcement. One primary objection pertains to the part that allows law enforcement to ask for proof of residency of any victims of or witnesses to crimes. Fear of incrimination of individuals or family members is likely to create a mass reluctance to report crimes and possibly increase criminal occurrences in many communities.
Other local officials and law enforcement personnel feel the law is confusing and vague, particularly as it pertains to enforcement authority between local and federal officials.
While SB4 is proceeding at least in part, a further legal hearing is scheduled for November 6, 2017.
ACLU Texas Response
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas recommends that people have the right to remain silent about any immigration requests. At this time, if you happen to be stopped for a traffic violation you only need to provide a legal driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Also, according to the ACLU of Texas, those who are arrested for a crime need only to provide their name, residence, and date of birth. They do not have to answer questions about immigration status and should state clearly the desire to remain silent about any other issues.
Consult with a Professional Immigration Attorney
Having professional legal representation is becoming more necessary for all immigrants living in Texas. In Dallas, which is often labeled a Texas sanctuary city, Davis & Associates immigration law firm provides expert and compassionate legal advice to all who have questions about the latest Texas legislation. Having award-winning legal advice and representation can help in any situation.
For a free consultation, contact Davis & Associates at (214) 999-1942.