The Texas State Capitol building in Austin.
Texas Immigration Law Spells Big Shift
A controversial law passed earlier this session by the lawmakers, SB-4 overturns existing policies and practices of municipal governments throughout Texas, which had barred their police officers from asking about the immigration status of individuals they detain.
State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, a Democrat from Eagle Pass, approached Rinaldi, who then threatened to shoot him. Rinaldi later said on Facebook that he made the threat in self-defense.
SB-4 has drawn heated debate from all sides, especially from the law’s opponents who see the bill as a slippery slope to racial profiling by making immigrants and people of color more likely to be targeted by the police
Texas’ governor, Republican Greg Abbott, signed the law in May; it goes into effect Sept. 1.
For months, Abbott has stressed that the state will not bend to the will of voters in populous urban cities. “This is not the United States of Municipalities,” Abbott said, proposing a “broad-based ban on regulations at the local level unless and until certain standards are met.”
SB-4 is the perfect test case. Abbott and the majority of Republican state lawmakers support it, arguing that police officers should be free to ask detainees about immigration status. The bill’s opponents operate on the local level — a broad coalition of police chiefs, city councils and individual citizens who fear SB-4 will hobble relationships between police and the communities they serve, and will upend the sanctuary cities they have sought to maintain in light of the Trump administration’s recent immigration policies.
Abbott, who sued the Obama-led federal government multiple times during his tenure as Texas attorney general from 2002 to 2014, anticipated accusations of hypocrisy.
“When people say, ‘Well, gosh, Abbott, you were for, quote, ‘local control’ when you were suing the federal government and sued the Obama administration 31 times,’ That’s not true,” Abbott said. “I sued the Obama administration 31 times because I thought they were violating the United States Constitution. It wasn’t because of local control.”
Texas Republicans have been on the cutting edge of their national party’s political and ideological front, so their latest about-face on local-versus-state and state-versus-national control may be a signal of what may be in store in other Republican-dominated states and in Trump’s Washington.
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