Immigration has become a contentious issue in the United States, nowhere more so than in Texas. Recently, the state passed a law that makes it a crime for law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with immigration agents.
The law relates to so-called ‘Sanctuary cities’ – locations that provide protections to immigrants who may be undocumented.
A report in Vice News noted Texas has created criminal penalties for law enforcement officers who fail to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICCE) requests to hold people in local jails for longer periods pending federal action.
At issue is detainer requests which are issued by ICE allowing those suspected of being undocumented immigrants to be held for up to 48 hours in local facilities so ICE officers can pick them up for possible deportation.
Senate Bill 4 was passed along party lines earlier this year, sparking opposition and legal challenges.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the act will stop elected officials flouting the law.
He has been critical of the stance of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, elected in November 2016, who said her office will no longer cooperate with ICE detainer requests unless a suspect was charged with a serious felony.
The bill would allow Hernandez, whose county includes Austin, to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for failing to comply with detainers. It’s the serious misdemeanor category in Texas.
The Los Angeles Times noted county sheriffs and police chiefs who refuse to comply with federal detainer requests could face up to a year in jail. Cities, counties and even colleges face steep fines ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 a day for flouting the law.
The law raises major question marks given that federal detainers are not mandatory and have been successfully challenged in courts.
Angie Junck, Supervising Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, told the LA Times the legislation is unprecedented and the bill violates the 4th Amendment protections against warrantless arrests without probable cause. She said it also raises racial profiling concerns.
Texas Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who took the bill through the Senate, said policies like the one in Travis County are not a threat to public safety and it is justifiable to bring criminal charges.
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