A version of this piece originally ran at the ACLU of Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law yesterday. He’d declared it an “emergency item” before the legislative session began, and he could barely contain his giddiness when the bill passed its final legislative hurdle last week. “I’m getting my signing pen warmed up,” he tweeted.
When the governor of the Lone Star State positively gloats over such a wrongheaded, racist, undemocratic, un-Texan piece of legislation, a law that treats our immigrant neighbors as strangers to be shunned and feared, a law that breaks up families and endangers communities, I have to wonder what’s become of us.
SB4 will make all our immigrants, regardless of their residency status, feel like something other than — or less than — Texans. And that’s just wrong.
Because this is not the Texas in which I grew up.
The Texas I know is free. But SB4 will turn ours into a “show me your papers” state, where any encounter with local law enforcement can turn into a citizenship interrogation. It will encourage local police without a single minute of immigration enforcement training on their resumes to profile skin tones and accents and languages. Detainers, now mandatory under state law, will clog our jails. The border checkpoint will be everywhere.
In the Texas I know, we look out for one another. But SB4 will drive witnesses and victims of crime into the shadows. Fearing deportation, survivors of domestic violence and rape will let their abusers walk free. Knowing this, sheriffs from Travis, Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and El Paso Counties, along with police chiefs from Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio begged the legislature not to pass this awful law. But the experience and informed opinions of Texas’s law enforcement leaders carried no weight with Gov. Abbott and his warmed-up pen.
The Texas I know believes in democracy. But SB4 threatens to remove from office duly elected officials should they choose to prioritize the safety and integrity of their communities over the governor’s warped and xenophobic agenda.
The Texas I know values its immigrants. The Texas I grew up in and still love is a place where rugged individualism is admired, where we have a statewide culture of entrepreneurship that is only strengthed by immigrants, as research shows.
The Texas I know loves diversity. Every nation on earth is represented here. Our people pray in churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues. One-hundred-and-sixty-four different languages are spoken in homes across Texas. But SB4 will make all our immigrants, regardless of their residency status, feel like something other than — or less than — Texans. And that’s just wrong.
So to all the immigrants who fear the impact of this law on your lives, know that we stand with you. SB4 won’t take effect until September 1, but we won’t wait that long to fight it. Fight it we will, in the courts, at the ballot box, in the streets if we have to, and for as long as it takes, until Texas once again becomes the Texas I know and love.