Faculty discuss sanctuary cities bill at forum

Patrick Coggins, MSU chief of police, talks to Syreeta Greene, director of the Office of Equity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs, about immigration and law enforcement for the Critical Conversation Series held in the Legacy Multipurpose Room on Sept 18. Photo by Marissa Daley

To educate students on how Texas Senate Bill 4 will affect campus and Wichita Falls policing, the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Multicultural Affairs hosted a forum on Sept. 18 in the Legacy Hall Multipurpose Room.

“Wichita Falls isn’t and has never been a sanctuary city,” Manuel Borrego, Wichita Falls chief of police said. “We are probably not going to change anything that we aren’t already doing now.”

About 30 people attended the forum, the organization’s first meeting as part of its new Critical Conversation series, a series of forums that will be hosted every third Monday of the month aimed towards educating students about various social issues. Patrick Coggins, campus chief of police, along with Borreg, and David Barbosa, facilitator and adviser to Café Con Leche, spoke at the event.

Senate Bill 4 calls for the elimination of sanctuary cities, cities that limit the amount of cooperation with the federal government in immigration policy. Officers who do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. These penalties also apply to campus police. The bill also allows local police to inquire about immigration status of people they lawfully detain.

“Immigration policy is not something that is normally enforced at our level,” Coggins said. “I don’t see Senate Bill 4 affecting a lot of the ways we’re going to do things. Campus law enforcement, especially, doesn’t normally engage in immigration law enforcement.”

According to Coggins, students will not see a significant change in policy considering that they do not normally enforce that policy to begin with.

According to Borrego, immigration status is only considered in a serious situations, although city police doesn’t normally handle immigration policies, however, he encourages discussion on controversial laws.

Officers can inquire about immigration status to anyone legally detained — even just for being pulled over. Police roles have shifted from “guardians” of the community to “hunters.”

“I know that this senate bill is concerning to the community and as a police chief, I want my community to feel safe,” Borrego. “If this is keeping them from feeling safe, then it’s contradictory to what we are trying to get accomplished in the city.”

Syreeta Greene, office of equity director and inclusion and multicultural affairs, said, “When SB4 was a hot topic in the spring, my first concern was how this would impact students knowing that we do have a number of undocumented students who attend our institution. As an office here to support historically marginalized and under-represented students, I wanted to make sure that we all had clarity.”

Barbosa said, “It [Senate Bill 4] is a very timely, critical issue for our Hispanic community. Folks are very stressed and anxious about what is going to happen. I’m hopeful that what the police chief said has maybe created a little more comfort.”