The Jose Crow Law of Texas

Texas House Passes Dangerous & Discriminatory Sanctuary Cities Bill

TODAY — The Texas House passed Senate Bill 4, known as the Sanctuary Cities bill. Under this bill, local sheriffs and police chiefs will be required to honor federal ICE requests. As of now, honoring ICE requests is voluntary and Texas counties already comply. I do not support SB4 as it will undoubtedly hurt Texas families.

The House version of the bill includs a highly contested “Show Your Papers” Republican amendment that will allow police to inquire about someone’s immigration status during routine law enforcement interactions such as traffic stops—rather than only being able to do so after making an arrest. With this amendment, SB4 is similar to the controversial law passed by Arizona in 2010 that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2010, I wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle in response to Arizona’s anti-immigrant “Show Your Papers” law. Seven years later, it describes the challenges that SB4 will inevitably bring to Texas. Under SB4, Texas families will be torn apart and a new era of Jose Crow laws will be ushered in. You can read the op-ed below or by clicking here.

Arizona immigration law ushers in era of Jose Crow
By State Rep. Garnet Coleman
Published Saturday, July 10, 2010

I am thankful that the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Arizona’s immigration law because it interferes with the federal government’s constitutional authority to set and enforce immigration policy. By declaring “reasonable suspicion” to be grounds for detainment, such laws not only overstep their boundaries, but they ensure that people of a certain ethnicity are born suspects.

As a result of Jim Crow laws and being born suspects, African-Americans are all too familiar with the consequences of “reasonable suspicion.” My father and those of his generation dealt with the obstinacy of an elected class determined to keep discrimination enshrined in statute. Sadly, with the passage of this anti-Fourth Amendment legislation in Arizona, it appears a similar elected class is determined to pass on that experience to a new generation of Americans. After decades of progress, it is painful to see a state put discrimination back into place with a new twist on old laws — ushering us into the Jose Crow era.

Masquerading as a fix to our broken immigration system, Arizona’s law sacrifices the liberties we have worked so hard to gain and protect. Under Arizona’s stringent anti-immigrant law, a person’s ethnicity and culture makes him or her “reasonably suspicious,” thereby eroding the constitutional rights of certain U.S. citizens and legal residents. Americans whose families have lived in Arizona for generations will have their citizenship questioned based on their “reasonably suspicious” physical appearance. Police will be taken away from their primary role of fighting crime as they are forced to spend more time inquiring about an individual’s immigration status. Profiling places an unnecessary wedge between law enforcement and communities. Placing “reasonable suspicion” into statute does nothing to bridge that trust gap and foster meaningful relationships between peace officers and the communities they protect.

While Americans are understandably frustrated with our nation’s broken immigration system, the misguided, unconstitutional approach taken by Arizona is not the answer.

Although I’m hopeful that this lawsuit will dissuade other states from mirroring Arizona’s ill-advised and unconstitutional law, the lawsuit is only the first step. President Obama recently declared that the federal government “cannot kick the can down the road” and must finally solve our nation’s broken immigration system.

That broken system in our country results in the conflicting messages of “keep out” and “help wanted.” It pits workers against each other, rewards bad-actor employers, puts honest businesses at a competitive disadvantage and leaves billions of dollars in uncollected taxes.

If done correctly, comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level can create a stronger economy for both native-born citizens and immigrants alike. Studies have found that a legalization program would generate $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue in the first three years. The increased consumer spending from comprehensive immigration reform would be high enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs. Even the conservative Cato Institute noted that “legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households.”

From a moral standpoint, comprehensive immigration reform would bring hard-working people out of the shadows, giving them a shot at the American dream and the opportunity to build a better life for their children.

Instead of letting Republicans who seek short-term political gain develop divisive legislation, we must come up with a workable solution that doesn’t defy the values of our society. The sad, sorry legacy of Jim Crow laws which were meant to divide and suppress a group of people must not be allowed to resurface. Our country must not become a society where Americans, based on a “reasonable suspicion,” will have to prove they have a lawful right to be here. No American should be born a suspect.

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