Governor Greg Abbott published an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News Friday defending Senate Bill 4 — the anti-“sanctuary cities” law that critics say will encourage racial profiling, undermine local policing efforts and tear immigrant families apart.
In the piece, titled “SB 4 will make Texas communities safer,” Abbott spreads at least two major lies: One, that only criminals need to worry about being asked for their papers under SB 4, and two, that the bill only requires jails to honor immigration detainers when a person is charged with a violent crime.
Abbott, who made “sanctuary cities” a legislative emergency this session, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The governor writes: “Regardless of your immigration status, if you have not committed a crime and you are not subject to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] detainer, you have nothing to fear about the change in Texas law.”
That isn’t true. Thanks to a hotly contested amendment, the bill specifically permits police to request proof of citizenship from someone who’s merely been detained, not arrested. Put simply, being stopped by a cop does not mean you’ve committed a crime. Abbott seems to have forgotten about “innocent until proven guilty.”
Second, Abbott writes: “SB 4 requires law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainers issued for violent criminals.”
In fact, the law requires jails to honor all ICE detainers. Detainers are voluntary requests from ICE to local jails to keep someone locked up beyond when they would normally be released, so that federal agents may arrive and potentially deport them.
ICE places detainers on arrested people the agency believes are undocumented; it does not limit the requests to “violent” criminals. ICE has even mistakenly placed detainers on U.S. citizens.
Abbott, who sparked criticism when he suddenly signed the bill into law on a Sunday night earlier this month, made similar claims last week in a Univision interview that an Austin City Council member called “blatantly untrue.”
On Monday, El Paso County joined the town of El Cenizo in suing the state over the law, and the City of Austin has voted to do the same. The law takes effect Sept. 1.