Protecting Immigrant Families: A Call for an Economic Boycott of Texas

After SB 4, Texans should support immigration and boycott conventions, conferences and major sports events.

Protesters sit at the Capitol Rotunda opposing SB 4.  Sam DeGrave

The time has come for us Texans to promote an economic boycott of our state until the misnamed “anti-sanctuary” law, Senate Bill 4, is repealed and state officials end their war on immigrants. We should begin a campaign to ask conventions, conferences, and major sports events to take their business elsewhere.

SB 4, Texas’ “show me your papers” law, which goes into effect September 1, is the worst discrimination law that any state has passed in recent times. It opens the door wide to racial profiling and will drive immigrant victims of crime, spousal abuse, and human trafficking underground, doubly victimizing them. It will break up families, deporting parents of U.S.-born kids — no matter how long people have lived here and no matter how hard they have worked to better Texas as decent law-abiding people.

SB 4 prohibits local authorities from adopting policies that prevent police officers from asking people about their immigration status. The law strips local authorities of their right to decide when it is appropriate to report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

YOU Can Support The Texas Observer Today

Become a Member

and start receiving the magazine

Stay Informed

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Spread the Word

Give a friend a gift subscription

Individual officers, on their own, can question a detained person’s immigration status, even at a routine minor traffic offense (like an expired inspection sticker). As Houston Sen. Sylvia Garcia put it, a broken taillight can lead to a broken family.

All the officer need do is “suspect” a person is undocumented; and, given the breadth of Texas’ immigrant community, the officer’s “suspicion” becomes a pretext for profiling and detaining virtually anyone.

Sheriffs, police chiefs, and other local authorities face a Class A misdemeanor, with a fine and possible jail time, if they don’t honor a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold a detainee, who might be subject to deportation, no matter how minor the offense. They face civil penalties of $1,000 for the first infraction and up to $25,500 for subsequent violations.

The law also applies to college campus police. Students attending a party could be at risk because minor offenses like possession of alcohol might trigger a path to deportation.

And, if SB 4 were not reason enough to boycott Texas, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon and petitioned the Trump Administration to end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), program by September 5 or he will sue to do so.

DACA protects young undocumented residents, who were brought to the country as children before 2012, from deportation and allows them a renewable, two-year work permit. Paxton would deport them, even though they really have no homeland other than this country. He would expel them from college and take away their ability to support their families.

The hard-right, gerrymandered Texas Legislature passed SB 4 over the widespread objections from local law enforcement agencies and the business community. Police believe SB 4 will discourage immigrant victims of crime or witnesses from contacting them, thus making the community less safe.

Texas’ largest cities and counties, and smaller ones, are in federal court, challenging the law. The litigation will span a few years. In the meantime, we should encourage associations, academics, and businesses to hold their conventions elsewhere until the Legislature rescinds SB 4; it will only do so when the financial juggernaut compels repeal.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has set the example. The 15,000-member organization of attorneys and law professors canceled its 3-day convention in Grapevine next year. The event will relocate outside Texas because of the “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive” law. About 3,000 people attend the convention.

Arizona’s passed a similar “show-me-your-papers” law, but legal challenges have blunted it. Even the Arizona law didn’t require local authorities to honor ICE detainer requests, as SB 4 does. Arizona backed down in the face of an economic boycott. We should make Texas do the same.

Until state officials jettison SB 4, halt their war on immigrants, and pay heed to the voices of law enforcement, business associations, and the Hispanic community, we have no choice but to ask conventions, conferences and major sports events to take their business elsewhere.

James C. Harrington is founder and former director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015.

You May Also Like:

Published at 8:51 am CST
Top