AUSTIN (KXAN) — As law enforcement agencies in Texas review their policy on whether or not they ask a person if they’re in the country legally, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is issuing a travel advisory to people who are planning to travel to Texas.
In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, the ACLU said, “Since the passage of SB4, we must issue a travel advisory that anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future should anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.”
The organization also posted an image of what travelers might encounter in Texas. The group says people might face illegal arrests, racial profiling and demands to show your papers.
“The entire nation needs to know and be aware of the impact this law will have on not just Texans, but anybody who visits Texas, as well,” said Astrid Dominguez, a policy strategist at the ACLU of Texas.
Dominguez calls SB4 a “discriminatory, racist bill.”
“If you’re traveling and you don’t quite fit the profile of what a police officer might think, you know, an American would look like, you might be questioned about your immigration status,” said Dominguez. “This will have obviously an impact on anyone who actually looks foreign.”
On Tuesday, KXAN reached out to tourism industry experts who said they are concerned about the passage of SB4 and ACLU’s travel alert.
“At Visit Austin, we’re very concerned about SB4 because it could have an economic impact on our tourism industry. Not only for Austin, for the whole state of Texas,” said Tom Noonan, the president and CEO of Visit Austin. “We want Texas to be seen as a welcoming place and we’re concerned that some folks may, with this being passed, may not see us that way.”
The governor’s office, through Texas Tourism, released this statement:
This law deals with safety and security of all Texans by keeping dangerous criminals off the streets. If the ACLU had a genuine interest in assuaging the concerns of citizens, they would resist the urge to resort to fear-mongering as it relates to Senate Bill 4. To separate the facts from the fiction, this law does not require mandatory immigration checks, it simply prohibits local Sheriffs from banning law enforcement officials from inquiry into the immigration status of persons already lawfully detained. Furthermore, witnesses and victims are exempted from the provision, helping ensure they will continue to assist law enforcement efforts.”
John Wittman — Press Secretary, Office Of The Governor
State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, said the alert is an “over-dramatization.”
“There are a lot of misconceptions about this law. First of all, it didn’t change a police officer’s ability to ask you about your immigration status. None of that changed,” said Sen. Buckingham, saying SB4 provides more protections for victims of crime who are undocumented.
Buckingham added, “From day one, this has been a community safety issue — not a political issue. What we’re saying is our communities are even safer because of this bill and Texas is open for business.”
The senator’s conservative colleague in the House echoed her sentiment.
Responding to the ACLU travel alert, Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said he is “troubled by it.”
“Look, if people want to come to Texas and break our laws, then they should be nervous about it. But, if people want to come here and follow our laws, then there’s absolutely nothing to worry about,” said Rep. Leach. “ACLU can issue every travel warning it wants, but, all we’re asking for is when people come here, reside here, or travel here, follow our laws and everything will be fine.”
If a person feels like their rights were violated, the ACLU is asking people to call: 1-888-507-2970.
Ever since Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 into law on Sunday evening, various groups have pledged to challenge it. Luis Vera is an attorney with the League of United Latin American Citizens. He says he filed the challenge Monday on behalf of a small town near the border with Mexico called El Cenizo, which has had a “safe haven” ordinance since 1999 that prohibits city employees from asking about a person’s immigration status.
Texas has already asked a federal court to preemptively find that the law known as SB4 is constitutional. Abbott says the ban is needed to keep immigrant criminals off the streets and will stand up in court.
With additional reporting by the Associated Press