After more than five hours of public comments – many from pro-illegal immigrant activists hurling defamatory accusations of racism and white supremacy – Texas’ fifth largest city declined to pile on a lawsuit to block the state’s new immigration enforcement law.
By a vote of 5 to 4, Fort Worth’s city council decided at its August 15 meeting not to join multiple other Texas cities and counties in suing to stop implementation of Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary cities law enacted in May and set to go into effect September 1.
“Tonight is not a vote on whether we are racist,” said Councilmember Brian Byrd – though many in the council chamber tried to make it just that.
About 60 pro-illegal immigrant activists – most affiliated with the group United Fort Worth – spoke in favor of the city joining the anti-SB 4 lawsuit. One after another, they cast as “racist” anyone who disagreed with their position. Several invoked Charlottesville, and some even suggested that white members of council were “white supremacists” if they didn’t join the lawsuit. Activists also threatened to unseat any councilmember who didn’t vote their way.
But bullying, slurs, and cries of racism proved unpersuasive, and United Fort Worth failed to get what it’s been after since forming in June: to “formally draw the City of Fort Worth into existing litigation” against SB 4.
Mayor Betsy Price voted against involving the city in the lawsuit, as did councilmembers Byrd, Cary Moon, Jungus Jordan, and Dennis Shingleton.
Councilmember Carlos Flores, who had proposed signing on to the litigation, was joined by councilmembers Ann Zadeh, Kelly Allen Gray, and Gyna Bivens in voting for the action.
About a dozen Fort Worth residents spoke against the city joining the lawsuit and in favor of SB 4 and the rule of law that it represents.
Fran Rhodes told the council, “I’m still amazed that we need a law to force law enforcement to enforce the law, but it seems that we do.” Rhodes observed that Fort Worth and Tarrant County law enforcement officers already cooperate with federal immigration authorities, so under SB 4 they’ll simply “continue to do what they’ve always done – uphold the law.”
State Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), who represents much of Fort Worth and was a co-author of SB 4, agrees. In a statement issued earlier in the week, Burton corrected misinformation about the law that’s being spread by its opponents:
For many Texas communities, including in Tarrant County, the statewide policies implemented by this bill are extremely similar or identical to longstanding local policies.
At its simplest, SB 4 requires local entities, such as county jails, to comply with detainer requests, which are requests from the federal government to maintain temporary custody of an individual so federal immigration authorities can determine if further action is required. SB 4 does not grant police the ability to detain or arrest an individual based solely on the suspicion they are undocumented. SB 4 does not mandate police to inquire into the immigration status of any individual. And SB 4 certainly has nothing to do with deportation, as the state does not have the power to deport anyone. What SB 4 does do is prohibit racial profiling by police and prohibit police from inquiring into the immigration status of a victim of crime or a witness of crime in almost all circumstances–a first in Texas history.
Burton also noted the serious public safety threat that illegal immigration poses to Texas communities including Fort Worth:
In the past six years, individuals without legal status have been charged with more than 566,000 crimes in Texas alone, including some of the most serious offenses in state law. These are serious numbers, representing real victims, and the state government has a constitutional duty to promote public safety.
“SB 4 is a commonsense policy that better promotes public safety for all Texans,” she concluded.
The City of Fort Worth is taking a commonsense approach to the new policy, rather than being swayed by misinformed alarmists or bullied by pro-illegal immigrant activists who cry racism to promote their own political agenda.