Seeking a Better Life is Not a Crime

Seeking a Better Life is Not a Crime
On December 18th, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 4 into law. SB 4 makes unauthorized entry into Texas a state crime and authorizes state and local law enforcement officials to arrest individuals deemed to be in violation of the law. In practice, SB 4 will allow judges across the entire state of Texas to deport people, even if they are here seeking asylum. SB 4 empowers police officers to detain immigrants for deportation, pulling resources away from what should be their priority — fighting violent crime. SB 4 is in direct violation of the U.S. constitution and the federal government’s constitutional authority over immigration law.

Our community – and our nation – needs immigrants. In Texas, we have 1.6 million undocumented immigrants who have built lives here in the U.S., have families here, and pay $2.6 billion in federal taxes every year.

SB 4 will make our communities less safe. Once the law goes into effect on March 5, immigrants who are victims of crime will feel like they can’t call the police because the police are now in charge of enforcing immigration law. If people are more scared to report crimes, no matter who that person is, that poses a threat to our public safety.

Not to mention that our jail system is already at the breaking point. Even if only 1% of Harris County’s current undocumented population were to be detained in the county jail system, it would cost the County $500,000 a day. This burden will ultimately fall on Harris County taxpayers.

Earlier this month, I led other Texan County Judges in writing a letter to the Biden Administration requesting that the federal government take action to prevent this law from taking effect. Harris County renewed our Immigrant Legal Services Fund, which helps immigrants who can’t afford their own lawyer to access legal representation. And on December 19th, Commissioners Court approved the first-ever county-funded Immigrant Resource Hotline, which will be available in mid-January and will help connect callers with legal information and free social services.

We will continue to push back against the damage this will do to our security, our economy, and all of the undocumented residents of Harris County that are here to build a life.

Playing with people’s lives just to make a political point is very cynical and it shows what our state leaders are really interested in with this law. If they truly want to pass meaningful immigration reform and make our border safer, let’s have a meeting, let’s work with our federal partners on this, and work out some real solutions.