We urge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to veto anti-immigrant SB4 legislation

May 4, 2017

Governor Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Dear Governor Abbott:

On behalf of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, I urge you to veto SB 4. NCLR strongly condemns the Texas Legislature’s decision to pass this deeply troubling piece of legislation that jeopardizes the civil liberties of millions of Latinos in Texas, and that recklessly undermines public safety in the state.

If enacted, we fear this law would only serve to frighten and defame millions of hard-working members of Texan communities and put other Texans’ safety at risk. Indeed, we see many of the same anti-immigrant undercurrents in this measure as we did after Arizona passed SB 1070 in 2010, which in our view, essentially sought to codify and legitimize racial profiling. A similar measure would be incredibly problematic given that Texas is a far larger state that is home to more than 10 million Latinos and one in five Hispanics in the country. These constituents deserve to live in communities free from harassment.

By obligating local law enforcement to detain people for the federal government, SB 4 would make localities complicit in violating important Constitutional safeguards, which apply to everyone living in our great country regardless of their citizenship status or national origin. The language in SB 4 either demonstrates a lack of understanding of the interplay between civil immigration enforcement and these fundamental protections or—worse yet—a malicious underlying intent to ostracize and vilify an entire community for political gain. Whichever the case, this is unacceptable.

SB 4 is also bad public policy that undermines public trust in law enforcement. On April 18, 2017, several Texas law enforcement sheriffs penned a compelling opinion piece asserting a simple truth: locally elected sheriffs know the needs of their communities better than state and national leaders who are currently trying to tie their hands. These law enforcement professionals note that, if SB 4 is enacted, the law would force local law enforcement to dedicate often scarce resources, such as jail space, on-duty officers and local tax dollars, to a job that is supposed to be carried out and paid for by the federal government. This is a law that, among other things, criminalizes local elected officials who make informed and reasonable community policing decision in the best interest of their localities, and threatens to withhold state funding for law enforcement activities and equipment. It makes no sense and goes against the recommendations of law enforcement professionals in Texas and throughout the country.

Moreover, as we have unfortunately learned from other anti-immigrant inspired laws and policies enacted at the state and federal levels, SB 4 will only serve to drive crime victims and witnesses in Latino communities further into the shadows. This undermines public safety throughout local communities. Law enforcement chiefs in Texas’s largest cities, including Austin, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, agree that SB 4 will lead to distrust of police and decrease cooperation from members of the community. It will foster the belief that some people cannot seek assistance from the police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation. We could not agree more.

Finally, as a civil rights organization, we are very concerned that SB 4 would compel local police to encroach upon some of the most sensitive locations in our communities, such as institutions of higher learning and the offices of health care providers. As a community, we have fought too long and too hard to increase access to education and health care for our community to see those gains be undermined by this draconian measure.

Governor, we urge you to reject this senseless and reckless measure, which stands to disproportionately impact the lives of millions of your constituents who live in the state of Texas.

Sincerely,

Janet Murguía
President and CEO
National Council of La Raza

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