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SB 4 revives anti-immigration policies

New controversial bill will potentially ban refuge in sanctuary cities for Texas immigrants
The+enforcement+of+SB+4+in+Texas+would+give+the+state+government+the+power+to+enforce+immigration+law%2C+which+has+previously+been+only+a+federal+jurisdiction.
Sophia Sepulveda
The enforcement of SB 4 in Texas would give the state government the power to enforce immigration law, which has previously been only a federal jurisdiction.

Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) is a bill approved by Texas lawmakers during a special legislative session in 2023 that establishes the act of crossing the Texas-Mexico border in between legal ports of entry as a state crime. If this bill survives a court challenge and enforced, state and local police who are not specialized in immigration enforcement will have the legal authority to question and arrest any person suspected of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally. If they do not actively possess legal status of immigration, the suspect will then be arrested and tried in a state court.

“SB 4 will definitely lead to more instances of racial profiling, and it puts certain populations at risk when it comes to their interactions with police,” government and politics teacher Dalton Pool said. “The bill will also potentially cause certain people to live more in fear.”

The enforcement of SB 4 in Texas would give the state government the power to enforce immigration law, which has previously been only a federal jurisdiction.

“If SB 4 takes effect, it will give far more leeway for state law enforcement officials to racially profile and create environments in which ‘appearing or sounding like’ an immigrant could make someone a suspect of a criminal violation,” Austin mayoral candidate Carmen Llanes Pulido said in a press release. “The enforcement of SB 4 actually makes law abiding citizens and residents more hesitant to call law enforcement when needed, which can contribute to more crime.”

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That ruling shouldn’t be in the hands of an everyday person, there should be a system that a deported immigrant has to go through.

— Chris Magnus, Sophomore

For decades, deportation in the United States has been dealt with by the federal government and federally trained officials who deeply understand immigration status and how to handle those situations.

“The Constitution is clear that matters of immigration should be handled by the federal government,” Pool said. “Historically, state governments have very little to do with immigration because of the U.S. Constitution.”

SB 4 is constitutionally controversial because of its challenge on the power balance of federal and state governments. Since immigration is a long-standing federal issue, the possibility of untrained state government officials enforcing immigration reform is new and scary to some.

“I don’t think that ruling should be in the control of an everyday person,” sophomore Chris Magnus said. “There should be a system that a deported immigrant has to go through to make sure that justice is being held and people aren’t being mistreated.”

On February 29, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement regarding SB 4. Abbott said that PresidentJoe Biden has a constitutional duty to enforce federal laws protecting states, including the laws already in place mandating the detention of illegal immigrants. Abbott claimed that Texas has the right to defend itself because Biden has failed to protect Texas from invasion at the border.

“Texas does have reason to be upset,” Pool said. “The federal government has dropped the ball when it comes to responding to the current crises as Congress has failed to pass any meaningful legislation related to the problem.”

This bill would give law enforcement more opportunities to question someone when there is probably no reason to.

— Nicole Magnus, Senior

SB 4 was originally going to go into effect on March 5 of this year, but was temporarily blocked on February 29. As of March 18, the law has been indefinitely blocked by the Supreme Court, and it has not yet been determined when the Supreme Court will decide their stance on SB 4. On March 19, the law was temporarily activated but then rescinded again and put on a pause later that evening by the Supreme Court.

“I expect the Supreme Court to side with the state of Texas,” Pool said. “The Court definitely has a conservative tilt right now and SB 4 represents the conservative perspective on immigration.”

According to an official statement from the White House, the Biden Administration strongly disagrees with the Supreme Court’s order that allowed Texas’ harmful and unconstitutional laws to go into effect. The statement continues to say that the passing of SB 4 will endanger communities in Texas, burden Texas law enforcement, and cause chaos near the Southern U.S. border.

“This bill gives law enforcement more opportunities to question individuals when there is probably no reason to,” senior Nicole Magnus said. “It makes immigration status more difficult to achieve because this bill could prolong the process of becoming a citizen in a way that is not needed.”

This story was originally published on The Dispatch on May 2, 2024.