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Activist: Texas Sanctuary City Law Makes All Immigrants Look ‘Suspicious’

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) speaks during a protest outside of the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin on May 8, 2017. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

WASHINGTON – Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, joined other civil rights advocates to condemn the new Texas immigration law that cracks down on sanctuary cities for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities, arguing that it “encourages bigotry,” “divides communities” and violates the rights of non-citizens.

Another activist said the new law treats every immigrant, regardless of status, as “suspicious” and invites racial profiling.

“Once again a law has been sold as a public safety measure that in reality will jeopardize the safety of not just immigrants but all Texans,” Murguía said on a conference call with immigrant rights activists last week. “We will hold elected officials accountable for dangers — discriminatory – and unworkable laws based on falsehoods and stereotypes, and we will hold them accountable for policies that not only hurt their constituents but sow fear, encourage bigotry and divide communities. We will do that with the tools available to us: our voice, our vote and our buying power if need be.”

Vanita Gupta, incoming president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the Texas law one of the “most extreme anti-immigrant laws” in recent years. Gupta, who formerly led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the law is going to “drive a wedge” between communities and law enforcement and predicted that the law “will not stand” in the end.

“This law will drive a wedge between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect, which is why the police chiefs of several of Texas’ largest cities have spoken out against this law,” she said. “By sending a message to immigrants that they all look suspicious, SB4 is going to open the door to racial profiling of Texans and make non-Texans think twice about going to the state.”

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is ready to try blocking the law from implementation and said Texans should “welcome” the legal battles.

“We will file a lawsuit to block the implementation of this law before its intended date in September. There have already been lawsuits filed and there will be more lawsuits filed to prevent implementation of the law,” Saenz said. “We are confident we will prevail.”

Saenz said the law reads like a law school exam question, where a professor “poses a hypothetical law with constitutional flaws” and asks students to demonstrate their knowledge of the Constitution by “identifying all of the different flaws.”

“That’s how bad this SB4 is,” he said. “So we are confident we will prevail together with others in preventing implementation.”

John Yang, president and executive director of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said the Texas law would hurt undocumented Asian-Americans and promote racial profiling. He said Asian-Americans “fear” being questioned about their immigration status.

“The face of undocumented immigrants in the media is often a Latino face, but immigration is every bit an Asian issue as it for other communities of color. Nationwide, there are an estimated 1.6 million undocumented Asian immigrants [in the U.S.],” he said. “The fear of mass deportation is a reality in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.… They fear being subjected to interrogation or detention based on where they are from and how they look.”

Yang continued, “We will not let a resurgence of xenophobia and hate like this bill take root in this country. We need to fight plans to reduce the number of immigrants in this country, both present and future, and continue to recognize the valued contributions of immigrants to this country by both with documents and those without documents, and we and our country will come out stronger for it.”

Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the ACLU, said the Texas “show-me-your-papers law” is an “assault” on America’s values and the Constitution, and will “target” foreigners based on how “they look or sound.” The ACLU warned the public about traveling to Texas after the governor signed SB4 into law.

“It will lead to widespread racial profiling against people of color and unlawful stops by local police in violation of the Constitution,” Praeli said.

Speaking out against the law, Mary Beth Maxwell, senior vice president for programs, research and training at the Human Rights Campaign, said any attack on “one of us is an attack on all of us.”

“As a country, we must welcome those who set out from both neighboring countries or distant shores to flee violence, to love freely or just build a better life for themselves and their families,” she said. “Targeting people because of who they are or what they look or where they come from is, and always will be, dangerous and deeply un-American. So, today and every day we stand with all immigrants, including LGBTQ immigrants, in this fight for justice and we support efforts to strike down the hateful anti-immigrant law, SB4.”