The American Civil Liberties Union issued a “Travel Advisory” Tuesday targeting Texas that hyperbolically warned of “widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike” that will result from the state’s new “sanctuary” ban.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Sunday Senate Bill 4 — an act that prohibits jurisdictions from enacting or following “sanctuary” policies and establishes criminal and civil penalties for local officials who refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities. The law also allows law enforcement officials to inquire after a detainee’s immigration status. SB4 will go into effect in September.
“Enforcing immigration law is not a violation of anybody’s constitutional rights.”
The ACLU swiftly declared travelers to Texas should “anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.”
“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement,” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement. “Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce [President Donald] Trump’s draconian deportation force.”
Ira Mehlman, director of media relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told LifeZette that while it is true that “everybody does have constitutional rights in this country,” the ACLU’s claim that SB4 violates them by default is categorically false.
“SB4 is not a violation of anybody’s constitutional rights. You don’t have a constitutional right to be in the United States illegally,” Mehlman said. “Enforcing immigration law is not violation of anybody’s constitutional rights.”
The hysterical response to SB4 from leftist activist groups stems from their desire “to try and raise alarm when there really isn’t any cause for it,” Mehlman said. The ACLU’s argument that the “racist” bill institutes a “show me your papers” culture that forces Texas law enforcement officials “to comply with the federal government’s constitutionally flawed use of detainer requests” is unfounded.
“It’s completely without basis. Under SB4, police have to have probable cause before they can do anything. They can’t just stop people randomly,” Mehlman noted. “They can’t just … launch an investigation into somebody’s immigration status unless there is probable cause to believe that person is in the United States illegally.”
“Police have to act on reasonable suspicion whether it’s immigration violation or anything else. They can’t just randomly pick people out on the street and investigate them,” Mehlman added. “Any law can possibly be abused, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have laws.”
Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette in an email that the “travel alert” was just “a cheap publicity stunt by the ACLU,” perhaps with the purpose of fundraising “for the baseless lawsuits that they are planning to file” and that “Texas taxpayers will have to pay to fend off.”
“The most common complaint that the anti-enforcement groups have about the Texas sanctuary law is that it will make illegal immigrants afraid to report crimes,” Vaughan added. “Well, now it’s very clear just who is trying to make people afraid – it’s the ACLU and the other pro-sanctuary activists. They would rather that illegal immigrants fear local authorities than admit that victims and witnesses are never targets for immigration enforcement.”
In addition to the publicity stunt of issuing a travel warning, the ACLU has pledged to challenge the law in court.
“We plan to fight this racist and wrongheaded law in the courts and in the streets. Until we defeat it, everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what’s in store for them,” Terri Burke, executive director of the Texas ACLU, said in the group’s statement.
“It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur,” Burke warned. “Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person’s rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail, or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so.”
Because the ACLU is spouting alarmist rhetoric that distorts the purpose and reasoning behind the SB4 bill, Mehlman suggested the bills supporters take back control of the narrative, “get out there and let people know exactly what this law does and does not do.”
“Look, the groups and the individuals who are just opposed to any kind of enforcement, they’re going to raise a fuss about anything, and they’re going to try to twist all of these enforcement efforts into something that is nefarious. And it’s not,” Mehlman said. “This is a tactic — I think, part of it is intended to bring some kind of financial pressure on Texas, to discourage people from visiting Texas, you know, hoping to hurt the state’s economy.”
“I don’t think it’s going to have much of an effect,” Mehlman added, noting that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear.
“There is nothing in SB4 that says that the police can just randomly stop you and ask about your immigration status. They have to follow, you know, established legal procedures before they can do any of those things,” Mehlman said. “And the police have better things to do than that, to just go around hassling people for no reason.”