A wild new Texas law gives anyone in law enforcement the right to question a person’s legal immigration status. Although such a law out of Texas isn’t a huge shock, it’s worth mentioning that it isn’t even a unique law. Arizona passed what is essentially the same thing back in 2010, but it was eventually blocked by the federal court system after subsequently being challenged. Because of the new authority granted to ICE by the Trump administration, one might say that anti-immigration measures could now have some added weight. Will we start to see more laws of a similar nature pass in the coming months and years?
Hopefully not. The new law, signed by Greg Abbott, the (obviously) Republican Governor of the state, is being challenged at every opportunity. Some city governments are filing lawsuits and, more predictably, civil rights organizations are quickly moving to do the same. With any luck, the law might get struck down soon. But then again, there’s the aforementioned Trump factor. We just don’t know what the outcome will be.
An immigration law firm exists to fight for the rights of those who are already in the country, whether or not they appear to be documented individuals who came into the U.S. legally. While entering the country in this way is technically a crime, there are many immigrants who fled their own countries to find a better life–and many of them have achieved their goals after putting in a lot of hard work. Many people believe those individuals should be rewarded for their contributions instead of thrown out of the country simply because they came without permission–some many, many years ago.
That’s why laws like the one that just passed in Texas are so disturbing. It’s bad enough that Trump is allowing ICE to speed up its efforts to deport immigrants who it believes are living here illegally. The Texas law isn’t about stopping undocumented immigrants from entering the country, or sending those already living here back home–it’s about legally excusing xenophobia. This is America. It seems like the type of issue that should no longer be divisive in 2017, and yet here we are.
Although some law enforcement officials seem more concerned with protecting citizens from people who are actually breaking the law, Texas’s Senate Bill 4 will allow police chiefs or sheriffs to be punished if they try to ignore the immigration issue. In other words, if you’re not actually out there asking to see the papers of every foreign-looking individual you come across, then you could land yourself in hot water. Those found guilty of looking the other way could face fines as high as $25,000 or lose their jobs.
Not surprisingly, law enforcement isn’t too happy about the new bill. Everything action made by the police will effectively be under the watchful eye of someone else–and not for the right reasons. Many members of law enforcement openly opposed the bill during its first hearing. After all, why should they stretch already limited resources in order to provide ICE help? That mandate should be theirs, and theirs alone. It’s why they exist.
It creates an insubordination issue as well. If an officer has orders to do one thing, he would be well within his legal right to focus on the illegal immigration witch hunt instead.
The question now is this: will enough people and legal agencies stand to fight against a tide of new anti-immigration laws, or will our communities be swallowed by this injustice as it sweeps over us?