Rotunda protest

Democrat Files Bill to Repeal SB 4 During the Special Session

After Senate Bill 4, the “anti-sanctuary cities” bill, passed, Democrats and immigrant-rights activists pledged a “summer of resistance” to fight it — and so far that resistance has been relentless.

The latest move: Representative Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth) filed a bill yesterday to repeal SB4 during the special session.

“My hope is that representatives, as they’ve gone home and done their research, maybe they understand we rushed to pass SB4 without understanding its full extent, and the economic impact it’s going to have on our state,” Romero told the Texas Observer.

If we’re being realistic here, the bill is largely symbolic. It’s obviously not on Governor Greg Abbott’s list of priorities for the session’s agenda, and the odds that it will even make it to the floor in the Republican-controlled Lege, let alone pass with a two-thirds vote, are slim to none. But Romero recognized this, hoping instead that it can at least get a hearing in committee — and hoping that, for at least the third time, Republican lawmakers will have to listen to hundreds of Texans testify emotionally against the bill and see the damage SB4 has already done to immigrant communities.

Starting September 1, the new law will allow police to question people about their immigration status while detaining them for any reason, often called a “show-me-your-papers” provision. It will require all jurisdictions to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants in jail long enough for ICE to pick them up. And it will hold threats of criminal penalties and removal from office over the heads of any police chief or sheriff who fails to comply with ICE or creates policies prohibiting cops from enforcing immigration law.

So far the so-called summer of resistance has included endless protests and rallies; unbridled dissent from police leaders across the state, including Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo; and, most significant, an all-hands-on-deck lawsuit. It’s not just activist groups fighting the state’s GOP leadership with this one; Texas’s largest cities — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin — plus two border jurisdictions and El Paso County have joined the Texas Organizing Project and the ACLU of Texas in the fight to bring down the law in court. The groups, represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, argue that the law will encourage racial profiling, in violation of equal protection under the Constitution.

Hearings in the case have already begun — but as with most fights against some of Texas’s most controversial legislation, such as anti-abortion restrictions and stringent voter ID laws, expect this battle to rage on far longer than through this summer.

This story originally appeared 7/11/2017 in Houston Press.