Traveling to Texas May Result in Violation of Constitutional Rights
(From Press Release) – The American Civil Liberties Union of California 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 following the passage of a Texas law, known as SB4.
SB4 gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine 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 speak. Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law as Sacramento lawmakers debate a California bill, SB 54: The California Values Act, to prevent the kind of abuses the new Texas law invites.
“Whether in Texas or California, immigrants are a vital and inseparable part of who we are,” said Jennie Pasquarella, ACLU of California Immigrants’ Rights Director. “Laws like SB4 are ultimately not about immigration; they seek to further a racist agenda aimed at terrorizing communities of color and driving immigrants into the shadows.”
SB4 requires Texas law enforcement to comply with the federal government’s constitutionally flawed use of detainer requests, which ask local law enforcement to hold people for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even when they lack the legal authority to do so. Additionally, between 2008 and 2012, ICE requested local law enforcement to hold 834 U.S. citizens, some of whom subsequently spent days in jail as a result. Under SB4, the state of Texas is placing the rights of its residents, including U.S. citizens, in extreme jeopardy.
“We plan to fight this racist and wrongheaded law in the courts and in the streets. Until we defeat it, everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what’s in store for them,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “The Lone Star State will become a ‘show me your papers’ state, where every interaction with law enforcement can become a citizenship interrogation and potentially an illegal arrest.”
SB4 will go into effect on September 1, 2017. However, the ACLU is concerned that some law enforcement officers may begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly now.
“It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur. Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person’s rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail, or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so,” said Burke.
“California lawmakers have the opportunity to set a better example by passing SB 54, the California Values Act. They can ensure that all Californians can be free to live their lives without fear of persecution by police because of where they were born or the color of their skin,” said Pasquarella.
The California Values Act would limit local and state law enforcement’s entanglement with painful deportations, and keep our public schools, hospitals and health facilities, courthouses, and libraries safe and accessible to all Californians.
If you believe your rights have been violated because of SB4, please contact the ACLU of Texas at 1-888-507-2970. Additionally, ACLU “Know Your Rights” materials are available in a variety of languages here: aclu.org/know-your-rights