One of the country’s largest civil rights groups is cautioning against traveling to Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott signed what critics have called the most extreme state-based immigration bill in history.
Though the bill, Senate Bill 4, doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union said in its announcement that it “is concerned that some law enforcement officers may begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly now.”
The bill allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest, and also punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. Abbott and other supporters of the bill insist it’s needed to enforce the rule of law and deter people who are already in the country illegally from committing more crimes.
Many law enforcement agencies and faith-based organizations have said the law opens up the state to legalized racial profiling and could place U.S. citizens in the crosshairs of local police who want to enforce immigration law.
“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 Trump’s draconian deportation force.”
Between 2008 and 2012, the ACLU said, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requested local jails to hold 834 U.S. citizens, including some who spent additional days in jail because of the error.
After the national civil rights organization issued its travel advisory Tuesday morning, a state business group said they feared it could be the first of more sustained warnings — or even boycotts — that could adversely affect the state’s economy.
“I think what this bill brings with it is the perception that Texas’s welcome mat comes with qualifiers,” said Cathy Stoebner DeWitt, vice president of governmental affairs for the Texas Association of Business. “And businesses looking to come to Texas look at things like that. So it causes us great concern.”
The ACLU said more than a dozen of its state affiliates have issued their own travel advisories against Texas including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.