The backlash against Texas Governor Greg Abbott's recently-signed ban on sanctuary cities came immediately this week, starting with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issuing a "travel warning" that visitors to the Lone Star State may have their constitutional rights violated by law enforcement.
The ACLU released its alert on Tuesday, days after Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 4, which fines police agencies and local governments that resist immigration enforcement and allows officers to investigate a person's immigration status during routine traffic stops.
It also requires officers to hold people for Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) even if they lack the authority to do so. The ACLU has vowed to oppose the law in court.
"We plan to fight this racist and wrongheaded law in the courts and in the streets. Until we defeat it, everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what's in store for them," said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. "The Lone Star State will become a 'show me your papers' state, where every interaction with law enforcement can become a citizenship interrogation and potentially an illegal arrest."
The bill passed the Republican-controlled legislature last week amid the Trump administration's ongoing crackdown on sanctuary cities and campuses. President Donald Trump has received heated criticism for his hard-line stance on immigration, which took on a stark human face earlier this month when a senator began live-tweeting the deportation of a Honduran family seeking refuge from gang violence.
Opponents of the Texas law say it could lead to increased racial profiling, unwarranted scrutiny, and illegal detention of citizens and non-citizens alike—a particularly daunting prospect in a state with a diverse population, the ACLU said.
"The ACLU's goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas—regardless of their immigration status—from illegal harassment by law enforcement," said Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns. "Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump's draconian deportation force."
Burke added, "It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur. Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person's rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail, or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so."
SB 4 was also opposed by top cops in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, as well as the Texas Police Chiefs Association. On Tuesday, they were joined by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who previously declared that she would not cooperate with ICE's deportation efforts. She told CBS that the law encourages racial profiling and that it spreads "misinformation based on fear."
"This law does not keep our community safe; in fact, it goes against public safety," Hernandez said.
Abbott explicitly named Hernandez while signing the bill, which he did Sunday night on Facebook Live, prompting accusations of cowardice.
Hernandez and the other police chiefs have said they would helped the ACLU fight the ban in court. The law goes into effect on September 1.
"Everyone has constitutional rights in this country," Praeli said Tuesday. "The state of Texas, and every law enforcement officer, must respect those rights."