An Immigration Attorney and an Activist Scholar Explain Why SB4 is a Terrible Idea and What You Can Do to Stop It.

By Mark Kinzler kinzlerimmigration.com and Shaun Glaze, M.S

girl-flag-croppedImage courtesy Flickr user jvoves https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/138556236

Why SB4 must be opposed and how to do it effectively (SHORT VERSION)

  1. SB4 damages the ability for local law enforcement to properly carry out their duties of protecting and serving their communities because it forces officers of these agencies to become de facto immigration enforcement officers. Particularly in areas with large Latino communities, this law would degrade the level of trust between the community and the law enforcement agency (LEA), a trust which is crucial to the local agency’s ability to properly investigate local crimes.
  2. Requiring local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws as a part of their regular job duties will overburden agencies that are already strained economically and by their current workloads. In order to effectively and legally comply, local law enforcement officers will need extensive training in federal law as it relates to lawful immigration status and will be required to perform extra immigration-related investigations with each arrest made.
  3. SB4 is attempting to order state LEAs to mandatorily comply with a Federal law that is currently voluntary, which is absurd on a practical level and also constitutionally dubious.  
  4. It is important to remember that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers can still access any jail at any time to investigate the immigration status of a detained person. The result of SB4 would be to shift the burden of this investigation away from ICE and place it onto local law enforcement officers. This essentially requires state law enforcement agencies to expend their own resources to carry out federal enforcement job duties that are already in place.

I want to go to SB-4 hearing but am not sure how to do that.

  1. Write down your talking points (testimony). It doesn’t have to be perfect. Print 20 copies of this with your name on it, to submit to the record. Otherwise, just bring the 1 copy for yourself. Remember, personal stories are remembered better than stats. It’s fine to include both.
  1. Learn about hearing process. What- SB4 (committee hearing). Where- Senate Chamber, When- 8:30AM. Who- Committee on State Affairs (if your rep is on this committee your voice is extra-important). Expected attendees – 200
  1. Show up early to hearing to have plenty of time to park, find room, meet neighbors, and have better chance to hear/speak (if you’re speaking).
  1. Listen to the bill be read by committee. Then invited testimony (if any). Finally, public testimony (where the audience can take turns speaking for no more than 2 minutes).  This closely mirrors district office visits in the Indivisible Group Toolkit. Typically, you can take pictures/video. Document the process. Submit your written testimony if you don’t speak (again, you need 20 copies with your name on it to do this).
  1. Leave room and document the process. Make a debrief video to talk about what experience was like. Share it widely and/or send to local indivisible groups. #SB4Bad4TX is the hashtag for the hearing.
  1. Celebrate and signal boost. Thank speakers for their public testimony- especially those marginalized by these policies. “Like”/”Share” content online, chat about experience with friends, family, coworkers, write emails to organizations involved, send thank you notes, tweet at press, whatever you’d like to do that helps you feel good about participating in the political process.

Why SB4 must be opposed and how to do it effectively (LONG VERSION)

Texas Senate Bill No. 4, or “a bill relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of state and federal laws governing immigration and to the duties of law enforcement agencies concerning certain arrested persons” was introduced by Texas state senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and seeks to require law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Texas to assist and participate in the investigation and determination of the legal status of immigrants who come into their custody. Generally, the job of arresting, detaining, and deporting immigrants is carried out by a branch of the Department of Homeland Security called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (commonly referred to as “ICE”). SB4, was born from the current storm of anti-immigrant sentiment, with great support from Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who are commonly known to make factually questionable and often clearly disingenuous statements about immigration problems in Texas. SB4 is misguided for several reasons:

  1. Public Safety – Cooperation agreements between ICE and law enforcement agencies have existed for many years. Nevertheless, the agreements are not mandatory, and different law enforcement agencies have been able to choose their level of involvement with ICE officials. Many LEAs throughout the U.S. have chosen to have minimal cooperation with ICE. Though there are several reasons often cited by the LEAs for the choice to provide minimal cooperation, one very common reason is the fact that the LEA’s cooperation with ICE actually damages the ability of the LEA to properly investigate and prosecute crime. In areas with high populations of immigrants, trust between the immigrant community and the LEA is crucial to the ability of the LEA’s fundamental task of protecting and serving the community as a whole. If the immigrant community is aware that the LEA readily cooperates with ICE, or is legally required to assist ICE in its efforts to apprehend deportable persons (a la SB4), members of that community will be fearful of cooperating with the LEA. When members of the community fear having contact with the police, the policy impedes the LEA’s ability to solve local crimes because the effectiveness of that job relies on information from witnesses and statements from victims and other members of the community.
  2. Resources and training of the law enforcement agencies – Local police agencies have an extremely difficult job as it is, and they are often underfunded. Many LEAs do not support cooperation with ICE because it adds another level of investigatory requirement to their already strained workloads and budgets. In order for local officers to properly and lawfully act in a role as an immigration enforcer, the officers would need extensive training in federal and immigration law and would have to increase work hours to comply with the new requirements.
  3. Federal preemption – Under a constitutional principle called federal preemption, state and local authorities are generally not allowed to enforce federal law, particularly when an enforcement procedure is already in place. This is a long-standing principle that has been addressed by several federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy is also reasonable on a practical level because federal authorities are usually in the best position to enforce federal law. Specialization and extensive training is often required to carry out this enforcement due to the complicated nature of the laws being enforced. Also, federal preemption precludes states from enacting their own laws related to federal matters so that overlapping jurisdictions do not end up with conflicting laws on the same matter. Generally, if that happens, the federal law will supersede the state law and the state law will be invalid.

Q: Help, Thursday SB-4 is my first Senate hearing. What do I do?

A: Excellent that you’ll show up! Just do a little prep work (alone or with a partner), and you’ll be fine.

1. Prepare by learning about the hearing process

  1. The location for SB-4 is the Senate Chamber (hard to find- come early) at 8:30AM
  2. You can find history of the bill
  3. Read analyses, especially analyses offered by immigration lawyers, migrants, and those directly affected by the law.
  4. Learn how to leverage your voice. Not all voices carry equal weight, though even a whisper can join the chorus. The voices of constituents of the committee ((Senate Committee on State Affairs (C570) matter A LOT MORE. If your rep is any of the following, make your voice heard. If they aren’t your rep (and you have 3 minutes of time), find out which Indivisible group has these reps, and offer that indivisible group (or any group resisting SB4) your support. Let them know how important their collective voices are here. Ask how you can help them get their voices heard. *Their* reps can kill this bill before it has a chance to move to the full Senate.

Chair:Sen. Joan Huffman Vice Chair: Sen. Bryan Hughes Members: Sen. Brian Birdwell Sen. Brandon Creighton Sen. Craig Estes Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. Sen. Jane Nelson Sen. Charles Schwertner Sen. Judith Zaffirini 

If your rep authored the bill, let them know what you think

Perry (sponsor) AND co-authors- Bettencourt | Birdwell | Campbell | Estes | Hancock | Hughes | Kolkhorst | Schwertner

If your rep is not on the committee. Please consider bringing prepared written remarks to submit to written testimony. 20 copies, your name on each copy.

2. Show up a little early. You might get lost, especially trying to find the Senate Chamber. Also, there might be 200 people there. Carpool, if possible.

3. The hearing starts. Usually, there will be a presentation of the bill, followed by invited testimony, then public testimony. Everyone gets 2 minutes. You may be rushed, but you have the right to 2 minutes of time. If there is a chance you may not speak, please consider bringing prepared written remarks to submit to written testimony. 20 copies, your name on each copy.

4. Be polite and steadfast in your testimony. See point 4 in the group toolkit for more information on what you can do to prepare. It is okay to get emotional as you speak from the heart. Many politicians like to hear personal stories.

5. Document the experience and share it with others. Take pictures. Take videos. Do a debrief with friends or alone to share what it was like. Your clip may encourage someone else to start showing up at hearings, too. You can use #SB4Bad4TX

6. Celebrate your participation in the political process, and stay tuned with groups to learn what is happening next. You can also share documents, pictures, videos with groups so they can signal boost. If you find out information about the bill but can’t act on it, share it with an affected indivisible group and they can use it for organizing.

One thought on “An Immigration Attorney and an Activist Scholar Explain Why SB4 is a Terrible Idea and What You Can Do to Stop It.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *