Guest Commentary: White Supremacy Is Fueling Extreme Anti-Immigrant Policy in Texas

A radical anti-immigrant bill is advancing through a special legislative session — but Texans can demand their representatives vote no.

By Sarah Mehta and Jonathan Blazer

Last month, Texas lawmakers convened for a special legislative session to debate some of the most extreme anti-immigrant bills any state legislature has ever considered. Already, one such bill — SB 4, which threatens humanitarian workers and family members of undocumented immigrants with severe criminal penalties — was passed by both chambers and is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. With just days left in the current legislative session, the legislature is attempting to short-circuit debate and rush through an even more fanatical bill that manufactures a new state crime so that Texas police may arrest, jail, and deport people.

If enacted, HB 4 would easily rank among the most radically anti-immigrant bills ever passed by a legislature. The anti-immigrant agenda advancing in the current special legislative session has been fueled by groups with links to white supremacy. Just last month, it was revealed that Texans for Strong Borders — an anti-immigrant advocacy group connected to neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes — urged Gov. Abbott to call a special legislative session to take up anti-immigrant legislation such as HB 4.

One of the versions of this legislation being considered would make it a state crime to attempt to enter the State of Texas from Mexico between ports of entry, and authorize state police and sheriffs to arrest, prosecute, and imprison anyone suspected of violating this new and unprecedented state law. Another version would go a step further and purports to authorize these officers — who are not trained in immigration law — to also deport people they suspect of violating this law.

In federal immigration proceedings, people have a right to due process and an opportunity to demonstrate that they should not be deported because, for example, they have lawful immigration status, are U.S. citizens, or are eligible for humanitarian protection. No such safeguards are in place under this version of HB 4. In fact, people suspected of illegal entry will be deprived of the basic rights afforded by federal immigration law and Texas criminal law: The bill suggests they can be summarily ordered removed to Mexico without even an opportunity to speak to a lawyer.

HB 4 is preempted by federal law and unconstitutional for good reasons. No state has ever empowered its police to deport people, but we’ve seen before that laws authorizing local law enforcement agents to investigate immigration offenses lead to racial profiling. Citizens and immigrants with permission to be in the U.S. would be at risk of wrongful arrest, detention, and deportation. This unprecedented move will distract police officers from investigating actual crimes, deter victims of human trafficking from coming forward, and in turn, make our communities less safe.

Ultimately, lawmakers are pretending they can stop people from coming to the U.S. by turning local law enforcement into border patrol. Evidence already shows that deterrence policies from fleeing persecution and instead create more disorder and harm. Laws like HB 4 would unnecessarily waste taxpayer dollars under the guise of national security and public safety, all while harming our communities and the integrity of federal immigration laws.

HB 4, in all of its forms, is founded on the idea that there is an “invasion” at our Southern border. This is the same logic, rooted in white supremacy, that motivated the man who killed 23 people and wounded 22 others during a shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart in 2019. This rhetoric has repeatedly been backed by Texans for Strong Borders. And it’s no surprise that last month, reports revealed that that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who also serves as President of the Texas Senate — received $3 million from a conservative PAC also connected to white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes.

The hateful narrative these voices are pushing has real consequences. We’ve already seen vitriolic state policies like Operation Lone Star lead to the tragic drownings and other deaths of people and children seeking safety. We cannot allow other harmful anti-immigrant policies take root — not in Texas, not in any state.

Texans have a critical opportunity to act now and demand that their representatives vote no to policies that criminalize migrants and divide our communities. We can’t allow our elected officials to misuse our legal systems to do the work of white supremacists.

Sarah Mehta, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU

Jonathan Blazer, Director of Border Strategies, ACLU

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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