The Legislature this week passed and sent to the governor what may be the most radical state law in the nation conscripting local police as immigration-law enforcers. SB 4 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) gives local police discretion to check the immigration status of anyone they detain for any reason. It would impose criminal and civil penalties on local law-enforcement officials who fail to hold a person at the request of federal immigration authorities, without an arrest warrant.
Local police officials across Texas all but universally opposed passage of the bill, arguing that it will hinder reporting of crime to law-enforcement agencies by turning police into feared immigration authorities. SB 4’s coverage extends to peace officers on higher-education campuses, but it does not cover school districts.
If the governor signs this “show me your papers” bill into law, as he has vowed to do, it is sure to come under prompt legal challenge, just like similar laws in other states. A key issue will be how far a state can go in getting involved in immigration policy-making, which is generally a matter under the control of federal lawmakers. Whether SB 4 ever takes effect will lie in the hands of the courts.