Local law enforcement agencies on the Texas border delivered a unified message about the new Texas sanctuary city law. The message was not about defiance as much as it was about the law.
Despite it being an area with a steady population of undocumented immigrants, local police agencies here along the border aren’t fighting the law. In their eyes, they see no change in the day-to-day operations.
“Senate Bill 4 does not impact us operationally,” said McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez during a press conference.
In an effort to unify local border law enforcement under one message, 15 police chiefs in Hidalgo County responded to mounting pressure to clarify their position on the new Texas law banning sanctuary cities.
Also known as S.B. 4, the law threatens to punish local governments and police if they don’t allow their officers to ask the immigration status of someone who has been detained, regardless of whether the suspect is guilty or innocent of that initial violation.
It leaves officers to operate under their own discretion, a move critics say is bound to result in racial profiling.
“It doesn’t require, it doesn’t mandate. The officer ‘may’ inquire," said Chief Rodriguez, quoting the law.
For Sheriff Benny Martinez of neighboring Brooks County, the law won’t change the way they operate either. He admitted that the law could facilitate the identification of undocumented immigrants.
“Yes, it would be a lot easier because we have dealt with those scenarios already,” said Sheriff Martinez, who also recognized that the law could lead to discriminatory behavior even though the language in the law says such action is prohibited. “It could be utilized to where, ‘You know what? I feel like I need to stop the vehicle. They are Latinos,' or whatever and he’ll just pull them over based on the pretext that ‘I need to check your citizenship.’”
The effort by border officials was to ease the concerns within the undocumented community. Their promise is not to act as immigration officers, but rather cooperate with them.
With local agencies highly dependent on state and federal aid, and with a strong relationship with their federal counterparts, there’s no sign that there will be any resistance to this law when it goes into effect on September 1.