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Does SB4 violate an immigrant's rights? Some Texas cities say yes

Since its passage just months ago, Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), also referred to as the "sanctuary cities" bill, has been applauded by some for providing Texas with a "uniform immigration policy," instead of a patchwork of laws. It gives local police and law enforcement more authority in immigration matters, a point supporters of the bill are quick to point out.

Unfortunately, the wording of SB 4 is incredibly vague, which could force officers to "use a heavy hand when detaining or arresting someone" or risk steep fines and the possibility of jail time if they violate the law, explains a Texas Tribune article. This only hurts immigrants and their families who may see an "across-the-board erosion of [their] rights." 

Seeking temporary injunction against SB 4

While some people in Texas may be complacent to act, others are not and have sought a temporary injunction of the rule. Four cities including Austin, El Cenizo, Houston and San Antonio, and two counties, El Paso and Maverick, have joined the legal fight against SB 4.

Representatives of the cities point out that the bill lacks crucial wording that would only allow police to inquire about a person's immigration status if the officer had reasonable suspicion that an individual was in the country illegally.

Without this wording, officers in Texas are free to ask anyone about their immigration status, which can lead to racial profiling, unlawful detention, and a violation of an individual's Constitutional rights, among other things.

What should immigrants know about their rights?

As we pointed out last month in a post concerning SB 4, it will become more important as the months go on for immigrants across Texas to educate themselves on their rights, specifically during traffic stops or other interactions with police.

The American Civil Liberties Union explains that regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have rights under the U.S. Constitution, which include:

  • The right to remain silent, which you can exercise by saying it out loud
  • The right to refuse consent to police who have asked to search your property, vehicle or person
  • The right to leave if you are not under arrest
  • The right to an attorney, such as an immigration lawyer

This last right is perhaps the most important because of the legal gray area SB 4 has created in Texas. Under no circumstances should you be made to feel like you can't exercise this right.

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