On May 7, 2017, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, signed Senate Bill 4 (SB4) which will take effect on September 1, 2017. SB4 will allow local law enforcement to question legally detained or arrested individuals about their immigration status. Despite the controversy surrounding the law, supporters argue the law is designed to boost public safety, protect citizens of our communities, and enforce laws already in place.
In short, SB4 can be summarized as follows:
- It states that localities cannot have policies that prohibit their workers from enforcing immigration laws, for example, officers cannot be prohibited from asking about immigration status when they are otherwise lawfully permitted to
- It states that local city and county offices must honor federal detainers
- It states that Hospitals and School Districts are exempt
Here is what you need to know:
- SB4 does NOT apply to public schools or open enrolment charter schools.
- School police or police officers otherwise contracted by schools CANNOT ask about parents’ or students’ immigration status, except as permitted by federal law.
On College Campuses
- During a lawful detention or arrest on a college or university campus, you may be asked your immigration status.
- The campus can be penalized if they interfere with officers who choose to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Hospitals, Mental Health Facilities, and Community Centers
- SB4 does NOT apply to state, federal or locally-run hospitals, including university and college hospitals
- SB4 also does NOT apply to community centers that provide mental health care, locally-run mental health facilities or intellectual disability facilities.
Churches and Places of Worship
- SB4 does NOT apply to police officers who are employed or contracted by churches while they are performing their duties at the place of worship.
Officials who fail to honor SB4, can be subject to Class A misdemeanor charges for failure to comply. SB4, which also applies to public colleges, mandates civil penalties for groups that violate the provision beginning at $1,000 for a first offense and rising as high as $25,500 for each infraction that follows.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to understand your rights. If you would like to further educate yourself, friends, or loved ones with respect to SB4, you may go to the website of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the ACLU Foundation of Texas here.
If you have any questions regarding the above guidance, please contact us at 512-705-1780 to speak with a reputable and knowledgeable Williamson County immigration lawyer.