Show Me Your Papers Law: Harassment of Immigrants

The Texas “show me your papers” law, otherwise known as Senate Bill 4, is one of the harshest bills impacting immigrants in the United States. Essentially, this is a discriminatory law that makes racial profiling an acceptable practice for law enforcement officials.

Understanding the Law

Senate Bill 4 gives police the ability to investigate the immigration status of any person they arrest or detain, including witnesses or victims of a crime. Under SB 4, even a passenger in a car pulled over for speeding could have his or her immigration status questioned.

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SB 4 also requires sheriffs and police chiefs to honor any detainer requests from ICE or face significant penalties. As a result of this part of the law, anyone who been picked up by police and found to be an undocumented immigrant must be held if ICE wants to pick them up.

Limitations of the “Show Me Your Papers” Law

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Although SB 4 gives police and ICE a lot more power, there are also limitations. For example, this law does not apply in mental health centers, community centers, hospital districts, open-enrollment charter schools, or school districts. It is also important to remember that ICE has a policy that prevents the agency from engaging in enforcement action during public demonstrations, as well as in sensitive locations such as places of worship. Furthermore, immigrants should be aware that student education records are confidential, and that it is illegal for school police to inquire about the immigration status of a student or parent unless it is permitted by federal law.

Negative Impacts of the Law

At first glance, it is already easy to see that this law provides law enforcement officials with far too much power. However, the full impact of this law will be even more destructive than people may expect. Some issues caused by this law include:

1. A large majority of Texans now fall under suspicion.

Texas communities are largely composed of people of color, including immigrants. Under SB 4, the immigration status of any person can be questioned. Because people of color are more likely to be immigrants, anyone of color is now vulnerable to frequent and unfair interrogations from police.

2. Relationships between immigrant communities and local law enforcement suffer.

Because of the fear inspired by SB 4, members of immigrant communities may no longer trust police as much as they once did. This means that they won’t be as likely to report crimes and/or cooperate with law enforcement officials.

3. The law does not target criminals.

Some defendants of the bill have stated that SB 4 is targeted toward criminals who are negatively impacting life in the state. However, the bill allows police to target anyone, even if they haven’t broken the law in any way.

4. The law can be misinterpreted.

Although there are clear limitations to the enforcement of SB 4, there have already been instances where it was misinterpreted, thus leading to the unlawful detainment of undocumented immigrants in Texas. This experience is traumatic and time-consuming for victims and their families.

Help for Immigrants

Immigrants in Dallas and the surrounding area are undoubtedly nervous about the effects of the “Show Me Your Papers Law.” However, if your green card or visa paperwork is in order, you won’t have to worry about being deported. For this reason, it’s important to have a knowledgeable immigration attorney help you make sure that your visa or green card paperwork has been properly filed and that your visa has not expired.

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At Hernandez Law Group, P.C., we’re dedicated to helping immigrants. Whether you’re looking to apply for or renew a visa, green card, or citizenship, we’re here to help. When you have us guide you through the filing process, you’ll never have to worry about this kind of harassment leading to deportation.