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What's Wrong with Texas House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 9

House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 9 in the first special session of the 82nd Texas Legislature (2011) are essentially the same as the former HB 12 which was defeated in the regular legislative session. These bills are Arizona-style legislation that seeks to redirect local law enforcement resources to enforcement of federal immmigration laws.

These bills have been promoted as bills to prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities,” but even the bills’ authors have been unable to define what a “sanctuary city” is or to identify any “sanctuary city” in Texas. In reality HB 9 and SB 9 are designed to prohibit police departments, cities, school districts, and other agencies from setting smart community policing policies that gain the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities by focusing their officers’ time and resources on public safety enforcement and by avoiding diversion of local police officer’s time and resources off into enforcement of federal immigration laws. In a misguided attempt to intensify enforcement of federal immigration laws, HB 9 and SB 9 would interfere with these local community policing policies and would encourage uncoordinated and unregulated attempts at federal immigration enforcement by individual, untrained local police officers who decide to act on their own as self-appointed federal immigration officers.

HB 9 and SB 9 would encourage racial profiling of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who might look, sound, or seem “foreign” to an untrained or zealous local police officer.

HB 9 and SB 9 would undermine public safety for everyone by preventing police departments from building the trust and cooperation they need from immigrant crime victims and witnesses to crimes that affect the whole community.
For the same reasons HB 9 and SB 9 would undermine enforcement of wage laws and encourage worker exploitation (see EJC testimony).

HB 9 and SB 9 would interfere with police chain of command, by specifically authorizing rogue police officers to disregard superior officers and police chiefs who want the officers to concentrate on public safety enforcement rather than federal immigration enforcement.

HB 9 and SB 9 would authorize even peace officers at schools, hospitals, and other agencies to become self-appointed immigration enforcers.

HB 9 and SB 9 would be costly to taxpayers who would foot the bill for trying to train local police as immigration officers, for lawsuits resulting from mistakes and discrimination, and for police time and resources diverted away from public safety enforcement.

Supporters of HB 9 / SB 9 are promoting a nonsensical myth that police leaders in Texas cities are creating “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants when the police follow modern community policing methods encouraging immigrant communities to help police enforce public safety laws by coming forward as crime victims as victims and witnesses. In reality supporters of these bills merely seek to redirect local law enforcement resources to intensify the enforcement of federal immigration laws and to make life harder and more unstable for undocumented immigrants and their families - even if that causes more racial profiling, decreased public safety, and increased burdens on taxpayers.