Texas anti-immigrant bill threatens to unleash racist police state terror

Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott conducted a photo-op at the U.S.-Mexico border at Brownsville, Texas, to sign Senate Bill 4 — a major anti-immigrant, “show me your papers” measure which is slated to go into effect in early March. The bill has been a huge priority for the Republican state legislature over the past year and is part of the Governor’s attempts to attack immigrant communities and Latinos.

The bill stipulates that any officer, from state troopers down to local police departments, can ask someone to provide proof of citizenship if they think that a person is here without status, effectively giving them the authority to racially profile people based on their skin color, ethnicity and language. Then, if a person is found to be in the country without status, they can choose to self-deport or risk jail-time for up to 6 months if found guilty and charged with a misdemeanor, or anywhere between 2 to 20 years in prison if they are charged with a felony. It is important to note that this bill does not limit its enforcement to border areas, but across all of Texas.

Backers of the bill point to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border as pretext for the draconian bill. They say that this is about enforcing the law, and that it has nothing to do with legal immigration or race. But how exactly do they think police forces will determine if someone looks like they are here illegally if not by racial profiling? If supporters of SB 4 really wanted to meaningfully resolve the border crisis, they would push for the United States to lift the blockades of Cuba and Venezuela, or end its intervention in Haiti, or cease any other aggression around the world that is forcing people to leave their homes. Instead, what this law will do is empower police forces across Texas to terrorize millions of undocumented residents, their families and anyone of Latin American heritage across Texas.

While civil rights organizations have stated that they are filing lawsuits against the bill, an important aspect of this measure is that it was in fact written to challenge the Supreme Court’s 2012 rulings on Arizona’s SB 1070 “show me your papers” law. In that ruling, the bill’s main provisions were struck down based on arguments that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause,” which holds that only the federal government can create and enforce immigration law. As SB 4 deputizes police forces at all levels to act as immigration agents, it is certain to face an uphill legal battle on this basis. However, it would be a mistake to assume the courts will do the right thing. If this law were to go all the way up to the Supreme Court, it would be sitting in front of the same panel of reactionary judges that overturned Roe v. Wade and affirmative action.

While we must fight back against the Republican attack on immigrant rights, we should also acknowledge that the Democratic Party has totally sold out immigrant communities. In fact, over the last three Democratic presidencies, deportations and border wall funding have steadily increased just like it did under their Republican counterparts. After more than 20 years since the first DREAM Act proposal, which would offer millions of undocumented youth — now adults with families of their own — a pathway to citizenship, not a single measure for comprehensive immigration reform has been passed. 

The only real step taken, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was a concession forced from the Democrats by heroic acts of civil disobedience by undocumented youth during the Obama presidency, and this measure only covers a small fraction of the total undocumented population. What the last two decades of the immigrant rights struggle have taught us is that the claims by the Democratic Party that they represent a true alternative to the bigotry of the Republican Party is completely hollow. They cannot be mistaken for allies in this struggle, much less the solution.

This law is rooted in racist fears that one day Texas will not be ruled by a white political elite because of changing demographics. It is meant to scare immigrant communities into fleeing the state or to relegate them back into the shadows, and be happy with whatever crumbs employers and the state have to offer. It is high time that full legalization along with equal political and social rights are extended to immigrants in this country and that U.S. imperialism gets out of Latin America. 

We must once again remind Texas and the U.S. government that this state and this country will not run without immigrants. Immigrant communities are here to stay, and we will fight back!

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