I have received a lot of calls recently from existing clients and curious loved ones, members of the community, and members of the immigrant community about the possible effects of SB4. Although I do not have the answer to all your questions, my best immediate advice is to have a plan. Have the tough conversations with your immediate family members, consult in person with an immigration attorney to know your rights as an undocumented person in Texas or get advice to your possible path to lawful permanent residency through a family petition.
Over the last two months I have seen an increase in ICE detainers in the local jails and a renewed enforcement round-up operation within the probation department(s) around the metroplex. It is imperative that if you or your loved one has been convicted of a criminal offense that makes you deportable or inadmissible or that has you reporting to probation that you seek advice from an immigration attorney so that you may facilitate a plan in case of ICE detention due to this renewed round-up operation.
You will hear a lot of rumors and a lot of news coverage related to this new law while we wait for it to take effect. The fact of the matter is, the unconstitutional nature of its language and the bill lending itself to discriminatory practices from local and State police departments makes it ripe for something to challenge all the way up to the nations Supreme Court. There are February 1, 2024 and March 1, 2024 enforcement dates to keep an eye on.
Things to know about SB4:
1. SB4 may change the way some police officers are likely to behave when interacting with you, but it does not change the way police are required to act when enforcing Texas laws on the streets.
2. SB4 prohibits counties, towns, cities and their agencies from having policies against enforcing immigration actions or limiting assistance and resources to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security in enforcing immigration policies.
3. Texas law enforcement officers have a set of escalating burdens to meet prior to making contact with you. Texas law enforcement officers do not have the authority to stop or arrest someone based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin; this kind of stop, detention, or arrest would be unconstitutional.
4. SB4 requires police and jails to detain immigrants for transfer to ICE if ICE requests it; this is an ICE detainer. SB4 prohibits any local policies to protect immigrants from ICE.
If you are detained:
1. You have a right to remain silent!
2. Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand!
3. Do not answer any questions about your place of birth or your immigration status.
4. Ask for/to call a lawyer.
5. If you are still detained after the time you should otherwise be released, call your lawyer.
Have a plan in case someone is detained:
1. Emergency Contacts at your childrens school are important names and numbers that you should always keep updated. Make sure that you double check and ensure that your appointed emergency contacts are up to date.
2. Make sure you have an emergency contact at home, a person who is responsible and will know where important documents are filed such as passports, visas, birth certificates etc. and that this person has emergency contact information for immediate family members and close friends who can assist in an emergency.
3. Identify local immigration lawyers and community outreach programs in your area that may be able to assist in your time of need.