Enter at your own risk
Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a strict conservative, authorized SB 4, a bill that serves as a blanket ban against sanctuary cities throughout the state. The specifics of the bill prohibit local (primarily city, county, and neighborhood) officials from preventing the police from questioning noncriminals about their immigration status. Any officials who do not comply face criminals charges.
Aside from the overarching xenophobic premise of the bill, it gives officers the ability to circumvent probable cause and due process by subjecting a person guilty of, say, a traffic stop violation, to questioning about a completely unrelated issue (their immigration status). This specific circumvention has drawn the attention and action of the ACLU, which recently issued an official travel alert informing prospective visitors that their rights in Texas may be systematically infringed upon in a fashion not permitted in other states.
The entirety of the alert is available on the ACLU website and offers a comprehensive look at the legislation and inherent threats it contains. The first two paragraphs, which offer an overview, are below:
TRAVELING TO TEXAS MAY RESULT IN VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, ACLU WARNSMay 9, 2017
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union issued a “travel alert” today informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.
The alert comes amid the passing of a Texas law known as SB4. The law gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be “foreign” based on how they look or sound. The travel alert applies to all travelers to Texas, including U.S. travelers from other states and U.S. citizens. In addition, this alert applies to all encounters with federal, state, county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.
Historically, travel advisories have been issued by the State Department, a federal agency, to those contemplating travel to areas which may, unbeknownst to travelers, pose significant threats to American travelers, be they an infringement or prohibition on rights that Americans hold as fundamental or specific dangers to travelers’ health or well-being.
The act doesn’t take effect until September 1, but Texas has already filed a civil action against Austin’s locale, Travis County, for their reluctance and refusal to enforce state-issued immigration mandates. The police chiefs of virtually every other large city in Texas (Dallas, Arlington, Houston, San Antonio, and Fort Worth) have gone on record via local newspapers to voice their disapproval of the bill and the motivation behind it.
The travel advisory may most practically benefit immigrants visiting Texas, but the ultimate fallout from Abbott’s bill could have profound repercussions locally, including a resentment of immigrants, legal or illegal, and, as the ACLU itself puts it, “the creation of a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime."