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What does the passage of SB 4 mean for immigrants in Texas?

Since the presidential campaign last year, there has been a lot of talk about sanctuary cities, particularly regarding their alleged interference with immigration enforcement. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions admits that the administration is still unable to define the term, this didn't stop Gov. Greg Abbott from passing Senate Bill 4 just days ago.

For those who don't know, Senate Bill 4, or SB 4 for short, is a law that bans sanctuary cities in Texas. Local police who "[refuse to] cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates who are subject to deportation" can face Class A misdemeanor charges for failing to comply with SB 4. Civil penalties also may be assessed, starting at $1,000 for a first offense and climbing to $25,500 for subsequent offenses.

While police may be fearful of violating the law, it's immigrants who are most concerned about its passage. That's because the final version of the bill "allows police officers to question a person's immigration status during a detainment --perhaps including traffic stops -- as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest," explains an article in The Texas Tribune.

Police are already voicing their disapproval of SB 4, saying that it only "further strain[s] the relationship between local law enforcement and [...] diverse communities." It also creates a divide between police and immigrant communities who may avoid speaking up about crime for fear of being detained and having their immigration status called into question.

With so much at stake and the future unknown, its important now more than ever for immigrants to get educated about their rights and to seek legal counsel if they feel their rights are being violated.

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