Poll: Hispanic views on Texas’ new immigration enforcement law aren’t so simple

Students against SB4 (KXAN Photo)
Students against SB4 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Senate Bill 4 was supposed to take effect on Sept. 1, but a federal court placed a temporary injunction on the law until judges decide whether it violates the constitution.

The state has appealed. It’s been one of the most divisive topics in Texas this year, with many groups claiming it was born of racist intentions and leads to discrimination.

While most Hispanic people in Texas oppose the law the numbers are closer than you’d think.

“Hispanics aren’t completely one sided,” said Jim Henson from the UT-Austin’s Texas Politics Project, which polled Texans on the two major measures of SB 4 after the law passed.

On requiring local police to cooperate with immigration enforcement, 39 percent of Hispanics support it. But only 33 percent support giving police officers the right to question someone’s citizenship status.

“They don’t approve of it. A pretty big majority disapprove but at the same time there’s a small but not insignificant share of Hispanics who tend to be OK with immigration enforcement,” said Henson.

He says SB 4, known as the “sanctuary city ban,” is more a symptom of partisan motives than racial motives.

“You can’t get around the fact that the reason you get those policies is because the Republican Party is so dominant in state government and there’s no way for the Democrats to effectively defend one of their major constituencies,” said Henson.

Despite lopsided numbers in the Capitol, opponents of SB 4 hope to turn the tide.

Wednesday, Hispanic leaders around the country launched a “Not in My State” campaign. It’s a new push to emphasize criticism of the new Texas immigration enforcement law, publicize the negatives,  and discourage other states to take up similar bills.

“We need to put our foot down. All of our civil liberties are being attacked right now,” said Mario Flores from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs, the Workers Defense Project, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund unveiled the campaign. State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, blames last November’s election for emboldening Texas Republicans but also predicts a backlash.

“Donald Trump, for all of his negatives in my view, did wake up a lot of people,” Israel said. “Today was a symptom of that. We’re at a breaking point. There’s a lot of tension and we want to come together to say this is not my state.”

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