Senate Bill 4 changes the way officials handle immigration

halie aldridge

Students and faculty march through the streets of campus protesting the immigration executive order Feb. 1. Photo by Bridget Reilly

A cop comes to the car window and the driver waits with a pounding heart. Two days before, Senate Bill 4 went into effect, changing the way local officials deal with immigration. The cop says, “Your taillight is out,” and the citizen breathes a sigh of relief.

Governor Greg Abbott signed into  law Senate Bill 4, or the sanctuary cities bill, on May 7, 2017 and it took effect on Sept 1, 2017. Now local officials can make their own decisions about immigration enforcement, without  being penalized for declining arrest, and whether they want to give assistance to federal immigration agents or not.

The court ordered temporal blocking of SB4 after it went into effect. However, local officials voted to appeal the court’s decisions. Since then, local officials have been granted the authority to make their own decisions regarding federal immigration enforcement.

SB4 is a Texas law that forces local governments and law enforcement agencies to do the work of federal immigration officers. It prioritizes their community’s safety over anti-immigration agendas and takes away the resources of the communities to serve the needs of the federal government. Cities and countries across the state said SB4 is unconstitutional.

Jiuba Eke, business management junior, said of the bill, “It’s very lazy and very disappointing that law enforcement is now doing work for the federal immigration officers. In my opinion officers were already doing this. And it’s just now they are letting everybody know they are doing it.”

Officials prioritize the resources they have been given, such as the ability to detain people if needed, but above all, to resist anti-immigration agendas.

There will be no penalties if officials do not ask about immigration status. When an officer chooses to ask about immigration status, they cannot hold a person longer solely to get an attempt of their status or attempt to verify their status with immigrations and customs enforcement (ICE).

Jim Johnson, Representative James Frank’s chief of staff said, “There is always room for improvement for legislation as facts on the ground change and experience shows what needs modification. Senate Bill 4 prohibits (sanctuary city) policies at any level of government within the state. It also prohibits campus police from adopting and enforcing rules or policies that prohibit the enforcement of or corporation with federal immigration law.”

When a local officer learns that a person is undocumented, he or she cannot arrest or continue to hold the person on that basis.  People will have a choice if they are asked about their immigration status such as: they do not have to answer any questions about their immigration status or papers including information on where they were born or how they entered the U.S.

“Finally, SB4 creates a civil penalty for willfully and knowingly violating these laws and waives sovereign immunity for governmental entities of a country or municipality (such as local district attorney, the governing body of municipality, or an officer, or employee of a local government) who knowingly violate the laws,” Johnson said.

The process of making a bill a law helps to enforce these ideas to public citizens.

”Immigration law and policy are decided at the federal level and SB4 is attempting to ensure that the government is not choosing which laws they enforce,” Johnson said.

While some opinions of the bill are not favoring, there have not been any problems as of this year.

”With enactment of the law happening just last month, we have not had any issues yet,” Johnson said.

Though it was passed last month, more students and professors are gradually learning more about it.

”It shows that the government is willing to sacrifice the safety of its people for stricter immigration laws and control,” J’June Norford, chemistry senior, said, “It’s essentially a bad law that will not be useful to the community.”

The Trump Administration plan was to crack down on sanctuary cities jurisdictions that limit cooperation of federal immigration agents with longstanding tensions with some local governments and the federal government over immigration enforcement, while prompting others to alter their policies.

Because the law isn’t well known, some professors may bring up SB4 to their students and explain how colonization is also in effect.

”I think it’s stupid because black people are immigrants to the United States, they didn’t find the U.S. But they use colonization as an excuse to prove they claimed it first,” Smallwood said.

As the SB4 law is getting past first experiences, sheriff and police departments are now free to decline request from federal immigration agents to continue detaining a person on the side of the road or in a jail. These requests are called ICE detainers.

Nichole Smallwood, senior sports and leisure studies, said, “I know it’s important to somebody and we talked about it in class.”

Local officials are now free to speak out against laws like SB4 that would require cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. For example, sheriffs and police chiefs can continue to speak publicly about why asking about immigration status is a poor police practice that harms public safety.

“It makes America look lazy and weak that they cannot decipher the criminals and people who are just visiting the country,” Eke said. “The law puts more fear in citizens, who are afraid to be frisked based off of their appearance in the eyes of the officers.”

Sydney Ellis, exercise physiology junior, said, “SB4 is a law that basically gives law enforcement more power than what they are supposed to have. This law lets them take immigration law into their own hands instead of letting immigration take its own course.”

Under the law, citizens do not need to provide foreign I.D. If citizens are under arrest, they must give their name, residence address, and a date of birth. Citizens do not have to answer any other questions. They can say clearly they wish to remain silent. They do not need to say anything else, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.

”I disagree with the law because I think that local law enforcement has a tough enough job already at the local level,” Ellis said. “They do not have the criteria to even do what immigration officers do. In my opinion it would be biased for them to be able to do this job as well as their local level job.”

Ryan Puente, marketing senior, said, “I’ve never seen it before but now I know about it, it’s good that they can ask people if they are illegal or not.”

Local officers are not required to ask about immigration status; they can choose not to ask. There will be no penalties if they do not ask about immigration status. When an officer chooses to ask about immigration status, they cannot hold a person longer solely to get an attempt of their status or attempt to verify their status with ICE.

Courtney Thompson, business junior, said, “I have not heard about SB4 before and I have no idea what to think about it.”

To further protect people, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has posted more information on SB4 at