FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2015
What do law enforcement officials, business groups, faith-based groups, education advocates, civil rights leaders and immigration law experts have in common? Normally, not a whole lot. But whenever a so-called "sanctuary cities" bill is up for debate in the Texas Legislature, you will see an eclectic group of people from every walk of life line up to express opposition to a policy that would be disastrous for Texas. So far, their collective voices have been heard loud and clear, and in two legislative sessions "sanctuary cities" bills have failed despite Governor Perry's urging and Republican supermajorities in the legislature.
The dozens of "sanctuary cities" bills that previously failed all sought to do one thing: prohibit local police departments from adopting their own policies regarding the handling of unauthorized immigrants during their normal course of duty. The argument made by supporters of "sanctuary cities" bills may seem intuitive to some; let local police enforce the laws of the United States, including the illegal entry of persons into our country. But, unfortunately, that is an over-simplified response to a very complex problem.
There are a plethora of reasons why police agencies have instituted the policy of avoiding immigration questions during routine police work. Last year in Houston alone, it was reported that the city's police department failed to follow up on nearly 20,000 criminal cases that had leads due to a shortage of officers. We currently check immigration status in our county jails, and report to federal immigration authorities the criminal element after arrest, but police in the field simply don't have the resources to take on the additional responsibilities of immigration enforcement. I strongly feel that we should focus the efforts of our police on stopping dangerous criminals, and allow our federal officials to focus on immigration.
Additionally, numerous police officials from across the state have testified that a "show me your papers" policy would lead to fear and distrust amongst immigrant communities. When families that include citizens and immigrants fear that peace officers are acting as immigration agents, they will stop reporting serious and violent crimes out of fear of deportation. This would likely lead to even more crimes as criminals learn their victims or the witnesses to their crimes are too afraid of deportation to contact or cooperate with law enforcement.
Then, there are the hard-working immigrants that come to this country to escape poverty and violence, to build a family in a place where their children can get a great education, and to simply live the American dream. Does it really benefit Texans to spend our limited local police funding on tearing those families apart? Our police chiefs have repeatedly indicated it is not worth spreading scarce resources on this.
And what about the harassment and profiling that Texan Latinos will be subjected to? Many Latinos have roots in Texas that date back to the time before David Crockett made his trek from Tennessee to Texas, and I challenge you to find one person with deep Texas roots who would be comfortable answering a citizenship question based on the color of their skin. Will "driving while brown" become the order of the day?
Finally, "sanctuary cities" bills are simply bad for business. Texas farmers, builders and many other industries rely on immigrant labor and their purchasing power. Our economy would take a serious blow if we were to prioritize arresting and deporting the hardworking immigrants of this state. This is the main reason these bills have failed so many times in the past. In previous legislative sessions, the state's business interests have united to stop a policy that would be detrimental to our state economy.
And let us not forget that opponents of "sanctuary cities" legislation, including the business community, have long felt that this is a local decision, and should remain one. Texas has always been a state that prides itself on supporting local control, so why would we stop now? We claim to want our businesses and economy to grow, yet we continue to push for legislation that the business community has said over and over is bad for business. Do we really want Texas to be subjected to boycotts and Arizona-like sanctions by national groups who support humane treatment of unauthorized immigrants?
As you can see, "sanctuary cities" bills, including the currently proposed Senate Bill 185, don't just impact unauthorized immigrants. These bills negatively affect all Texas citizens, regardless of immigration status or ethnicity. This legislation does real damage to our businesses, our communities, our families, our safety, and to our state. That's why I urge you to add your voice to the growing alliance of leaders and Texans from all walks of life to help stop Senate Bill 185 and other "sanctuary cities" bills again this session.
State Senator Sylvia R. Garcia represents Senate District 6 in Harris County.