Texas Lawmaker Files Bill to Repeal SB 4 During Special Session

State Representative Ramón Romero, D-Fort Worth, speaks at the center of the SB 4 protest in the Capitol rotunda.  Sam DeGrave

On Monday morning, about two hours after Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation permitting lawmakers to file bills for the upcoming special session, Representative Ramón Romero filed a proposal to repeal Senate Bill 4, the “sanctuary cities” ban.

“My hope is that representatives, as they’ve gone home and done their research, maybe they understand we rushed to pass SB 4 without understanding its full extent, and the economic impact it’s going to have on our state,” Romero told the Observer.

Romero, a Fort Worth Democrat, said he thinks the state will face boycotts similar to those Arizona once faced over its own “show me your papers” law. At least one group — the American Immigration Lawyers Association — has already pulled its yearly convention from Texas.

Debate during the regular session, Romero said, focused on racial profiling more than other impacts of the law, such as making the Latino community — documented and not — more vulnerable to crimes.

Last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a group of teenagers told police they carried out a string of robberies that targeted Hispanics “because they’ve got money and they don’t call the police.” A taco vendor was killed when intervening in one of the robberies, police said.

Critics of SB 4 say the law further discourages immigrants from reporting crimes to the police, and evidence from Houston and Austin already bolsters their claims. “There are times I literally can’t sleep at night from the thoughts of what has already begun to happen,” Romero said.

The 30-day special legislative session begins next Tuesday, and lawmakers are tasked with addressing a laundry list of conservative priorities set by the governor — none of which include repealing SB 4.

The “sanctuary cities” ban, signed into law by Abbott in May, is set to take effect September 1, but several cities in the state are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop it.

Romero himself doesn’t think his measure, known as House Bill 53, is likely to become law, but he hopes it will at least get a committee hearing.

“I didn’t file the bill just so that I could file a bill,” he said. “I hope we at least entertain discussions that we haven’t had enough. … And if people want to come out and testify again in the hundreds as they did before, then I think that [lawmakers] should listen to those folks again.”

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Gus Bova reports on immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border and grassroots movements for the Observer. He formerly worked at a shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees. You can contact him at [email protected]

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