Texas Ban on Sanctuary Cities Will Increase Discrimination
The Texas law will be challenged in court, but it opens the gates for discrimination against immigrants says Lena Graber of the Immigration Legal Resource Center
KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown. Sunday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new law that would ban so-called ‘Sanctuary Cities’ in the state. Governor Abbott’s signing of the bill was broadcast on Facebook Live and here’s what he said.
GOVERNER ABBOTT: Let’s be clear about something. We all support legal immigration. It helped to build America and Texas. Texas strongly supports the legal immigration that has been a part of our state from our very beginning, but legal immigration is different from harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes. This law crack down on policies like the Travis County sheriff who declared that she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes. Those policies are sanctuary city policies.
KIM BROWN: Immigrants Rights groups immediately condemned the Texas law as one that will increase fear amongst immigrant communities. Also, some police departments support sanctuary policies because not reporting the immigration status of individuals that they stop allows for better cooperation with those communities. Joining us today to discuss this, including surround this Texas anti-Sanctuary Cities Law, we’re joined with Lena Graber. She is attorney with the Immigration Legal Resource Center based out of San Francisco, California. Lena, thank you so much for being here.
LENA GRABER: Thank you for having me.
KIM BROWN: First, can you give some more details as to what this law exactly would do? Supporters of the law say that it is different from the 2010 Arizona law that required police to collect and report on the immigration status of people that they interacted with. Parts of the Arizona law were eventually struck down in the Supreme Court. How is this law that Governor Abbot signed over the weekend any different from that?
LENA GRABER: It’s quite different. It just legally … It addressed different issues. The similarities, I think, extend to the fact that it’s a direct attack on immigrant communities and on any ideas of inclusiveness or egalitarian policing in the state of Texas. One of the key features of this law that is similar to Arizona in the way that people are unlawfully detained, but different in its legal construction, is that the Texas law requires all law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas to comply with any request that the federal government puts in an ICE detainer. Basically, surprisingly, makes Texas the lap dogs of federal immigration agents. Even though we have seen countless requests from ICE found to be illegal in federal courts, a number of lawsuits against U.S. citizens who are unlawfully detained at ICE’s request by local enforcement agencies, this Texas law turns around and says, “We, Governor Abbot and the Texas State Legislature, are ordering to, without question, comply with all of these requests.” Even though since many local agencies have been found liable for unlawful detention, that puts them in an incredibly difficult position. The state of Texas doesn’t have the authority to override The Fourth Amendment. That’s clear.
KIM BROWN: Governor Abbot claimed in that Facebook video that we saw, that some Texas official intends to harbor violent criminals. Is there any truth to this claim?
LENA GRABER: I don’t think so. Full disclosure, I couldn’t hear anything that Abbott was saying in that through the video feed so I don’t know what he said. Governor Abbott and a lot of the people who attack sanctuary cities are on this rampage about an idea that they don’t like immigrants and they want to spread misinformation that immigrants are dangerous, or criminal, or a threat to our society. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Study after study corroborates the fact that places with high immigration have lower rates of crime. A recent study compared sanctuary cities to comparable cities who don’t have sanctuary policies and found that sanctuary cities, as in cities that have some kind of policy limiting their engagement in immigration enforcement, have lower rates of crime, have higher [inaudible 00:04:41] incomes, better living standards. The idea that not enforcing immigration law at the local level, at the cost, and expense, and pain of local agencies is somehow a problem, is completely wrong.
KIM BROWN: What will be the longer term consequences of this law if it is successfully allowed to stand? If no successful challenge in the courts is able to take it down, what is going to happen if this is allowed to remain in place?
LENA GRABER: There’s going to be a lot of litigation so the idea that it will remain in place is … Given that in the event that that happens, I think the real the problem is that it is an incredible invitation for local law enforcement to discriminate against people. You can call it discrimination against immigrants, but everyone knows that it’s going to be much broader than that and much more racially targeted than that. What the state has done is basically said, “We encourage you to do that.” This law is saying, “We don’t want any repercussions for police who discriminate against people.” It has a provision directly in it that says you’re not allowed to discriminate, but every other section of the law says, “Make sure that you interrogate people about their immigration status. You can do it on whatever basis you want. Make sure that you detain them at any time. Contact ICE and you won’t face any consequences,” even though Texas is saying that you won’t face consequences, the reality is that The Bill of Rights and The Constitution mean that law enforcement will face consequences.
KIM BROWN: Lena, obviously, the issue of sanctuary cities is something that is going to be a challenge for undocumented people and immigrant communities in these states going forward. Especially, Texas now with the new law. I’m also wondering how immigrants are being perceived by the country as a whole, at large, especially when it comes to “innocent until proven guilty”. I’m put in the mindset of this recent case out of Rockville, Maryland, where to undocumented teenagers were accused of raping a 14 year old classmate on school grounds. It took on a national tone. There was a lot of protests, threats, even The White House commented on it. The White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, weighed on how important it is to monitor undocumented people and make sure that they not here illegally. Recently, in the past several days, Montgomery County prosecutors decided to drop those charges against those young men, but they are still facing deportation. What does it mean, or how important is it that people who are undocumented are given the opportunity to number one, have the writ of habeas corpus, but also not be lumped into or just assumed that they are guilty because they are here without legal documentation?
LENA GRABER: Immigrants are in a really precarious situation right now. They’re under attack really directly from the federal government. We suddenly have an administration that law and policy aside, is interested in painting a story of immigrants’ threat and dangerousness that doesn’t match reality. The administration isn’t interested in whether its true, they’re interested in feeding our people an agenda that tells Americans that immigrants are the problem and the enemy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Millions and millions of American children have immigrant parents, undocumented or documented. Immigrants are in all of our communities. They are hard working people. They are a major component of the labor force and the driving force of the economy. Everyone admits, even if they don’t live in a high immigrant community, that immigrants are often the backbone of the services industries, of care of our elders and our children.
When an immigrant is accused of a crime, there is all this hatred, and all this scapegoating, and blame throwing from officials who have a broader racist agenda to say that immigrants are bad. When in reality, human beings are human beings and immigrants like all of us are trying to do what they can for their children. I think it is a shame when an immigrant is accused of a crime and then later charges are dropped or they are exonerated. That is never part of the story. I think even more importantly, we see all the time ICE, and police, and law enforcement abuse immigrant rights and unlawfully detain them, unlawfully racially profile people, and unlawfully abuse, and beat, and mistreat them in detention. There’s very little repercussions for that. What the state of Texas has just done is try to say, “We support that activity. We don’t think that they should have any rights and we’re going to pass a state bill saying, ‘Please go get them.”
KIM BROWN: What are you seeing, in terms of state policies, as it relates to sanctuary cities. Greg Abbott appears to be maybe an anomaly because after the election of Donald Trump, we saw a number of mayors, at least of major cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. really double down on the fact that, “No, these are sanctuary places. These are places that immigrants are welcome and we will not direct our local police departments to cooperate with ICE officials unless there is an outstanding warrant for a violent crime on behalf of the suspected person.” Are we seeing more sanctuary cities or more anti-sanctuary cities policies put into effect as of late?
LENA GRABER: There have been a ton of cities and counties, I should say, enacting sanctuary-type policies around the country, basically since the day after Donald Trump was elected. Those policies pre-existed the Trump Administration, but really the minute that President Trump was elected and had been elected on a really vitriolic anti-immigrant, racist agenda we saw cities step up to protect their communities and their residents. They know, especially the larger cities that have larger immigrant communities, we know immigration enforcement looks like. It looks like parents that never get home to see their children because they’re taken away in the street, or maybe directly from their house in front of their children, or from their work site. The costs and the repercussions of that are human, and they’re painful, and they’re really tragic. Local governments across the country have stepped up to say, “You know, our immigration system is broken and we don’t control that because immigration is federal law. We don’t have to use our local resources to perpetuate that agenda and we’re not going to.” I do think Abbott going the other direction is strongly in the minority here. He’s been that way for a while.
KIM BROWN: Are we seeing a bit of a showdown between the federal government and state’s rights on the issues of immigration? Donald Trump recently tried to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, but his executive order was struck down in court. Might he and the Republicans try a different route now with state laws trying to impose federal will on states to direct them on how they should do either the sanctuary city policies or policies with how they handle undocumented persons?
LENA GRABER: Maybe. I think that really depends more on state structures. The reality is, part of the reason President Trump’s executive order was struck down and joined by the court, other than its flagrant constitutional flaws all over the place, was that the federal government doesn’t get to tell states and localities what to do on immigration. It can’t [inaudible 00:12:58] their resources to enforce the federal government’s agenda. Yes, they can work with other Republican controlled state legislatures to do some of that, but ultimately, that’s not within their control. I don’t think … I think they will offer what incentives they can, but states are really pushing back.
KIM BROWN: Lastly, Lena, what do we expect to see happen in Texas now? Texas I almost half minority, majority or majority, minority. There’s a large number of Latinos in the state of Texas. Surely, Greg Abbott and the Texas local law enforcement and ICE cannot round up all the undocumented people in Texas. Is this law even going to hold any teeth, in your opinion?
LENA GRABER: Well, I think there’s going to be a bunch of litigation and there’s going to be a bunch of fights over it. It may be that the law is struck down in the courts before it even takes effect. If it does take effect, there’s still going to be a big fight over what it means for the state of Texas. It’s absolutely true that deporting everyone in Texas is not only unachievable, it would be catastrophic for the state and they would quickly learn that trying to terrorize, and round up, and unlawfully detain that huge swap of the community is not in the state’s interest. I think that regardless of the way that the law is implemented, the people of Texas are going to start to see real repercussions and they’re going to remember that they can’t just try to make their own law enforcement do things in violation of The Constitution and have that be an acceptable way to carry on. It’s going to be a big fight.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, we have been speaking today with Lena Graber. She is an attorney with the Immigration Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, California. We’ve been discussing the signage of a new law in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott over the weekend. Did this via Facebook Live, signed that no city in the state of Texas could become a sanctuary city. Texas is an anti-sanctuary city state. We’ll see how this law is going to be implemented and whether or not it will be successful. Lena, we appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.
LENA GRABER: Thanks so much for having me.
KIM BROWN: Thank you for watching The Real News Network.