There has been a lot of controversy after the Fort Worth City Council voted against joining Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston in a lawsuit against Texas Senate Bill No. 4. (“SB4”), also known as the “Ban on Sanctuary Cities”. SB4 prohibits Texas cities and counties from adopting policies that limit immigration enforcement. It also allows police officers to ask about the immigration status of anyone they detain, even if the person is not arrested. And it would force local officials to comply with immigration detainer requests, which involve transferring foreign-born detainees to federal custody upon release from state or local custody. The ACLU of Texas has compiled a list of facts for people whose rights might be affected by SB4.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law this past May, and the law was scheduled to take effect on September 1. However, most of the state’s largest cities joined a lawsuit seeking to strike down the law. On August 30, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the law. The State of Texas has appealed the injunction and oral arguments are scheduled for September 22.
The Fort Worth City Council vote was evenly split between the eight council members, but Mayor Betsy Price cast the tie-breaking vote against joining the lawsuit. Dozens of community leaders and residents have protested and pleaded with Mayor Price to change her mind. According to the Pew Research Institute, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is home to 475,000 unauthorized immigrants, defined as those who crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas. Many members of this sizeable community charge Fort Worth’s City Council with racism.