Ban on sanctuary cities causes concern

Ban on sanctuary cities causes concern

Ban on sanctuary cities causes concern
June 01
01:18 2017

Sarah Young and Samuel Boyd | Contributing Writers

After signing the sanctuary city ban into law on May 7, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stressed the importance of safety and elected officials following the law as the reason for the bill.

“There are consequences,” Abbott said in a Facebook Live video before signing the bill. “Deadly consequences to not enforcing the law.”

The ban has received opposition and worry from citizens such as Cynthia Sanchez, a Denton resident and the child of undocumented immigrants, as the ban could result in protections provided by sanctuary cities being stripped.

While the definition of a sanctuary city is murky, the term is generally used to describe a jurisdiction with policies that provide protections to its immigrant population by limiting cooperation with the federal immigration enforcement program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

As a border state, Texas has the second highest number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S at just under 1.5 million, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. With such a high population of undocumented immigrants, Texas has been the focus of conversation surrounding sanctuary cities.

While no cities in Texas designate themselves as a sanctuary city, that hasn’t stopped several cities and counties from setting up precautions to help protect their immigrant population.

Among these is Dallas County, whose Commissioners Court passed a resolution in February that stresses the importance of immigrants to the Dallas community and calls for “local law enforcement agencies to end nonessential collaborations with ICE,” as well as Houston, whose county sheriff cut ties with ICE in February and ended their sheriff department’s participation in ICE’s 287(g) program. Austin has also stressed a priority to not cooperate with federal immigration statutes.

But despite these cities’ refusal to work with federal enforcement, there has been state backlash against the concept of any city that takes these preventative measures.

On May 7, after a 16-hour session, the Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 4 on a party-line vote. The bill requires local governments to enforce federal immigration law as well as honor all ICE requests to turn over individuals for deportation.

If these local agencies do not comply, the city could face severe fines as well as a possible withholding of state funds. In addition, police chiefs and sheriffs could potentially be prosecuted by the state for failure to uphold immigration laws, now made a Class A Misdemeanor by the bill.

In an official statement, Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) , the author of SB 4, thanked the House for passing the bill.

“It is imperative that we uphold the rule of law and keep our communities safe,” Perry said in the statement. “It is a bad day for Texas when officials sworn to enforce the law, help people who commit manslaughter and sexual assault evade federal immigration detainers.”

Despite this, some fear the bill will not simply affect criminals, but law-abiding immigrants as well.

Statistics from several studies suggest that crime rates are often lower among immigrant populations, and information from the Social Security Administration confirms that undocumented immigrants pay $13 billion in taxes every year.

SB 4 targets these immigrants, with no discrimination as to the kind of citizen an immigrant might be, as the bill allows law enforcement agencies to question the immigration status of anyone that they legally detain.

Many fear this will not only increase racial profiling by local law enforcement officers, but also discourage undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes due to fear that their immigration status may be questioned.

“We’re not exaggerating the effects of this,” District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D) said in an opposition speech that outlined some of these fears. “You’re protecting rapists because women will not be able to come out.”

The concerns of racial profiling are also severe enough that some people even fear it will affect their day-to-day lives. Sanchez said it has caused her to go out and do things for her family to avoid having something happen to her parents.

“I’m terrified. I’m terrified for my family,” Sanchez said. “What happens if my mom goes out to get groceries and never comes back?”

Many critics of the protections afforded by sanctuary cities argue that undocumented immigrants should go through the proper channels to become legal citizens. Opponents however, note the difficulties, both monetary and logistically, in becoming a legalized citizen.

In some instances, the wait time to get a green card can be up to 10 years.

Emily Martinez, an integrative studies major at UNT and Canadian immigrant, recently acquired her green card after several months and approximately $2,800 in fees. Her family has lived in the United States on visas for most of her life, but she acquired her green card after marrying a U.S. citizen.

“I don’t understand how people can sit here and listen to my story and the process I’ve gone through as a very privileged person from a very privileged country, and expect people to come from third-world countries,” Martinez said. “How are they going to pay these fees? It just confuses me. I don’t understand how people can put their middle finger in the air at these people.”

What is being called “anti-sanctuary city” legislation goes all the way up to the federal level, with President Donald Trump signing an executive order in January that directs the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to defund any jurisdictions that does not comply with federal immigration law.

Ninth Circuit Judge William H. Orrick blocked Trump’s executive order on April 25, declaring that threatening to take away federal funds from cities not cooperating with federal immigration law was unconstitutional.

Trump responded the next day by posting a tweet that called the ruling “ridiculous” and ending it with the president vowing to “see you in the Supreme Court.”

What this case taken to the Supreme Court might mean for the future of sanctuary cities is still unclear, because undocumented immigrants may still struggle with protections if cities enforce SB 4.

“I hope more cities step up for doing what is moral and right,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes the law isn’t ethical.”

Featured Image: Governor Greg Abbott. File

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Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

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