DALLAS — It may be remarkable to hear Republicans and Democrats agree on anything in the politically charged environment of 2017. But in an unusual show of solidarity across state and partisan lines, a group of politicians both in and outside of Texas took to the phone on Wednesday to blast the state’s pending Senate Bill 4 legislation.
SB 4 is often described in political shorthand as a “show me your papers law.” Gov. Greg Abbott has said the law will protect public safety by banning sanctuary cities, which regulate how police conduct immigration checks. SB4 will prohibit local authorities from "materially limiting" the ability of a law enforcement or court officer from checking a person's immigration status and reporting it to federal authorities.
Among the politicians speaking out against the bill were state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Texas, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Ariz. and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Fla. The talk was moderated by Delia Garcia, National Business Advisory Council Chair of the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs, which is active in 25 states.
SB4 goes into effect next week on September 1, hence the urgency of the lawmakers’ collective tone in the call, which is one in a series of events being held on the matter by the BHCC.
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SB 4 is a bill with potentially national consequences, a point that was driven home most forcefully by Quezada, who emphasized a cautionary tale regarding his state’s controversial immigration bill, SB 1070. Quezada’s district (29) has the highest number of Latinos in the state of Arizona.
Quezada described SB 1070 co-author, Kris Kobach, as one of the “most notorious anti-immigrant radicals in our nation.” Kobach is now vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and was personally selected by President Donald Trump to head the new initiative.
Passed in 2010, Arizona SB 1070’s particular take on “show me your papers” legislation resulted in costly litigation for the state of Arizona, at least one political career, and an effective “neutering” of the bill’s key provision.
“After living through the Senate Bill 1070 nightmare in Arizona, it saddens me to see Texas make the same mistakes,” Quezada said. The bill’s most notable political casualty was SB 1070 sponsor Russell Pearce, who Quezada described as “now disgraced.” Although he rose to the level of Arizona Senate president, he was ultimately recalled. It was the first time in the state’s history.
Ahead of becoming Texas state law, SB 4 has already been ripe with preemptive litigation, by both opponents and supporters of the bill. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton almost immediately sued the City of Austin, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, Travis County itself, and MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
BHCC’s Garcia emphasized that MALDEF still is in litigation with its suit on behalf of the city of San Antonio and is awaiting a federal court’s decision on a possible injunction. Meanwhile, Paxton’s lawsuit was already dismissed by a federal judge earlier this month.
Trump’s speech in Phoenix Tuesday night loomed over the proceedings, where he hinted at a possible future pardon of convicted Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a lightning rod in the decades-long debate on immigration enforcement. Quezada referenced the president’s remarks in Arizona, saying the people of Texas don't want to go "down the same road" as Trump's "celebration of bigotry."
Gonzalez, who is vice chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in Texas, made the case for victims of crime, and how SB 4 could have a chilling effect on what is reported to authorities. Gonzalez remarked that this is not a topic specific to Texas.
“We recognize the harms that SB 4 has not only in Texas, but its potential to have a replica of policy that mirrors it in other states,” Gonzalez said. “What happens to a woman who is a survivor of assault; of a sexual assault?,” Gonzalez asked.
“If she’s an immigrant woman, will she feel safe to make that call or will she feel that she can’t make that call because of dangerous legislation like SB 4?,” Gonzalez said.
Garcia led the discussion with a call for bipartisan unity. “It’s important to note that what we’re doing here is standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Texas,” Garcia said.
He requested that the business community also help oppose the bill, which he called “discriminatory,” a word that was repeated often during the 30-minute conversation. Garcia contended that forcing common police officers to become ICE agents goes “way beyond the debate about sanctuary cities.”
“It really goes against everything that this country, that we as American citizens have always stood up and fought against,” Garcia said.