Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office recently argued before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans the legality of Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary cities bill passed by the legislature during the regular session this year.

SB 4, which was which slated to take effect on September 1, was temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia.

SB 4 was passed during the 85th Texas Legislature in a statewide effort to force local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration laws after a number of local governments adopted “sanctuary city” policies designed to obstruct the deportation of criminal aliens.

The Legislature also unanimously passed HCR 52, highlighting their “dissatisfaction with the federal government’s inadequate efforts to secure the Texas-Mexico International border.”

The 2013 Congressional Research Service report “Border Security Threats: Understanding Threats at the U.S. Border” recognizes that “unauthorized migration [is] among the key threats to U.S. border security.”

However, Texas non-profits including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), have worked to create a stigma throughout the state against SB 4, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, by irrationally provoking the fears of Hispanic communities. They have equated the law to a racial profiling tactic and traumatized Hispanic communities into believing that legal residents will be unlawfully deported for “driving while brown.”

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports of rash deportation sweeps are “false, dangerous, and irresponsible.” ICE went on to say, “These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger.”

Non-English speaking communities who rely on these organizations for information are being unwittingly fed false propaganda as SB 4 strictly prohibits discrimination by local entities on the basis of race, color, religion, language, or national origin.

The groups have outrageously claimed that SB 4 will cause more domestic abuse because victims will fear deportation if they report crimes to authorities. However, Article 6 of the bill is specifically drafted to help protect such victims by limiting the circumstances when law enforcement can inquire about their immigration status.

Using such scare tactics, MALDEF, LULAC, LUPE, and other organizations have convinced many local governments throughout the state to pass resolutions opposing the implementation of SB 4.

Despite their opposition to the law, many border communities have not opposed taking grants from the state to beef-up their law enforcement efforts. Within the past three years, Texas has granted over $20 million to local law enforcement entities in the border region to combat border security threats.

Operation Border Star, which is now operated out of the  Homeland Security Grants Division of the Governor’s Office, offers Local Border Security Program (LBSP) grants to local law agencies in the border regions. These grants are meant to enhance, enforce, and deter criminal illegal activity in Texas.

Ironically, El Cenizo in Webb County, which was the first to file one of the lawsuits against SB 4, is among the list of recipients accepting $411,510.66 in LBSP grants within the past three years.

On August 22, at the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, protestors against SB 4 likened the law to the “trail of tears” while also claiming “Jesus was an illegal.” Commissioners agreed, unanimously passing a resolution against SB 4 while simultaneously approving a total of $417,000 in Local Border Security (LBSP) grants on the same agenda.

Since 2014, LBSP grants have totaled approximately $5 million per year. In 2017, $5,276,127.30 have been granted throughout the border regions.

The Court of appeals will review the injunction against SB 4 and decide whether to let the law go into effect. If so, local governments will no longer be allowed to, on the one hand, take money from the state for law enforcement efforts to help secure the border while also adopting policies designed to obstruct the enforcement of immigration laws.

Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Texas Scorecard. A second-generation Mexican American, she is both fluent in English and Spanish and has been influential in grassroots organizing and conservative engagement within Hispanic communities. If you don’t find her “Trumping”, you can find her saving animals, running her dog, hiking the Andes, or volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service.