The Guardian reports: When Texas passed a law this month banning so-called sanctuary cities and empowering police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain, protests rippled through the state’s major cities. Politicians and activists vowed legal action.
The first place to sue was not liberal Austin, the hub of the fightback, but tiny El Cenizo, a city of 3,800 that nestles along a bend in the Rio Grande and faces Mexico to the north, west and south.
Here, where 99% of residents are Hispanic and 15% to 20% are undocumented, a “safe haven” ordinance has been in place since 1999, forbidding local authorities from making immigration inquiries. When the new state law goes into effect in September, the failure of Texas officials to cooperate with immigration authorities will become a criminal offence also punishable by fines.
The lawsuit argues that the Texas bill, known as SB4, unconstitutionally inserts the state into the federal government’s job of immigration enforcement. SB4 is the most hard-line immigration law passed by a state since Arizona introduced SB 1070, a rule dubbed “show me your papers” by detractors that has largely been neutered by litigation from civil rights groups.
While the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, claims SB4 promotes law and order and keeping dangerous criminals off the streets, it was opposed by sheriffs and police chiefs in the state’s major cities, who worry that it will erode community trust and discourage the reporting of crimes. Critics of the law also worry that giving individual officers the option to pose immigration questions invites racial profiling and will turn routine traffic stops into preludes to deportation.
El Cenizo is now back in the national news, 18 years after a flurry of attention when it decided to make life easier for most of its residents by holding city meetings in Spanish, generating criticism from conservative groups who felt that not using English was unAmerican.
The timing is unfortunate for the 33-year-old mayor, Raul Reyes. In the week of 8 May, when the suit was filed, he was studying for his finals for a master’s degree in public administration. He also runs two businesses; being mayor pays only $100 a month. [Continue reading…]