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Opinion: Calling Immigration on Latinos Protesting SB4 is Racial Profiling

by Victoria DeFrancesco Soto /
In this April 26, 2017, file photo, students gather in the Rotunda at the Texas Capitol to oppose SB4, an anti-"sanctuary cities" bill that already cleared the Texas Senate and seeks to jail sheriffs and other officials who refuse to help enforce federal immigration law, as the Texas House prepares to debate the bill in Austin, Texas.Eric Gay / AP

Freedom of speech. It’s a pretty big deal; that’s why it’s the First Amendment of our Constitution. But according to one Texas legislator the First Amendment doesn’t apply to you if you look Latino.

On the last day of the Texas legislative session hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol to protest the recent signing into law of SB4, a measure that goes into effect this fall. Activists were dressed in red, waved banners and chanted their opposition to the law. It was boisterous, but nothing that the Legislature hadn’t seen before. It was, pure and simple, an exercise of free speech.

But Dallas County Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi seems to have an uninformed view of the Constitution. Rinaldi, a supporter of SB4, didn’t like what he was hearing from the protesters so he called immigration authorities.

Rinaldi sent out a statement saying he made the call.

Several members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus recounted that Rinaldi, “came up to us and said, I’m glad I just called ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to have all these people deported.”

On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an e-mailed statement "ICE is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter."

There was no way for Rinaldi, or anyone else, to know who was undocumented or not. The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino and that was enough for the lawmaker to assume the need for a round up and mass deportation.

Related: Texas Lawmakers Accuse Each Other of Assault, Threats as Hundreds of ‘SB4’ Protesters Disrupt Session

Siccing ICE on people who annoy you, now that’s a new low in politics. What Rinaldi did is especially troubling in light of the signing into law of SB4, which allows individuals to be questioned about their citizenship status while detained, including during traffic stops. The new law of the land in Texas, which takes effect Sept. 1, encourages racial profiling.

However, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, the law would not allow for Hispanics to get detained inappropriately. As reported by the Texas Tribune, the governor stated that, “there are laws against racial profiling, and those laws will be strictly enforced.”

The rationale for SB4 was similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 anti-immigration bill – to ensure public safety and not target specific groups. Its provisions prohibit government entities and universities from preventing law and immigration officers from enforcing immigration laws, a strike at so-called sanctuary cities.

Well in Texas, that flimsy negligee of a justification didn’t stay on long.

Would Rinaldi have called immigration authorities if the protesters were white women or African-Americans? He called Immigration authorities because the crowd was overwhelmingly Latino.

Related: Texas SB4 Immigration Enforcement Law: 5 Things To Know

Four out of 10 Texans is Latino.

SB4 essentially puts a cloud of suspicions on close to half of the state’s population. The end result of this law will not be increased public safety, but one of increased racial profiling, political polarization, and a lot of false alarm calls to ICE.

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