This bill, a rehash of legislation that was defeated in 2011, is simply bad policy and bad business. I’ve summarized six major points that illustrate why it’s such a time-waster for a Legislature that has important business to take care of — budget and taxes, education funding, access to health care and other key governance issues.
1. It seeks to solve a non-existent problem. There is no indication that local law enforcement needs this authority, which is reserved exclusively for the federal government, to keep communities safe. Quite the opposite, as point number two illustrates. I find this particularly ironic given that it’s being put forth by representatives who claim they are for small government.
2. It harms public safety. In 2011, this legislation was overwhelmingly opposed by county sheriffs and police chiefs. El Paso County Sheriff Wiles spoke out against this legislation because as he stated it would undermine his ability to work with immigrant communities and effectively combat cartel activity. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and many others made similar comments.
3. It’s bad business for Texas. Similar legislation in Arizona cost $5 million in lost taxes from SB 1070 and $135 million in lost economic output. We can’t afford to lose current business or future investors. It also does not make sense to drive workers away from labor-intensive but critical sectors such as construction and agriculture.
4. It targets children. While SB 185 exempts school officials, it includes school peace officers. I’m not one who thinks it makes sense to punish children who are in our communities, regardless of documentation, by pushing them out of school and into the streets.
5. It has legal implications that don’t appear to have been thought through. It will inevitably lead to racial profiling. It is likely to lead to violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourth Amendment. In fact, the issue already came up in El Paso County, where the El Paso County Sheriffs Department was sued for pulling passengers off a bus and asking them their immigration status; the lawsuit was settled when the department agreed to establish a written policy and train its officers. Further, it places schools in an untenable position: If their peace officers do not ask immigration questions they could lose state funding, and if they do ask they could be sued in federal court.
6. It hurts families. So called “sanctuary cities” policies have the potential to divide mixed-status families in Texas. Leading faith leaders opposing this legislation in 2011 including the Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Christian Life Commission, Texas Impact, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League, Evangelical Pastors, and numerous other religious orders and clergy members.
Only a few days ago, President Obama, in his Selma speech, reminded us of one of our country’s enduring sources of greatness, immigration. The United States of America still is the world’s greatest destination for those yearning to breath free. We need to fix our system to reflect that reality, not punish those who have risked everything to be here.
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