PHOENIX—The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas issued a travel advisory warning people traveling through Texas to know their rights and take significant precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones because of extremist laws Texas lawmakers have passed targeting immigrants and people of color. While the laws don’t take effect until February and March of 2024, the issuance of the advisory enables people to consider travel plans and prepare accordingly.
The bills Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law institute immigration enforcement mechanisms and mandatory minimum sentences that threaten the safety and rights of people traveling in Texas, regardless of their immigration status:
- SB4-88S4 creates a new state crime for unauthorized entry or re-entry into Texas from a foreign country. It puts tremendous power in the hands of local and state law enforcement who are not trained in immigration law and have no proper authority to enforce it. It includes a provision to allow Texas judges to direct people in some cases to depart Texas into Mexico without a chance to seek legal protections.
- SB4-88S3 creates up to a 10-year minimum sentence for people accused of “human smuggling,” under which Texas has charged children as young as 14.
“Texas’ decision to go down the failed path of Arizona’s SB 1070 will only harm the people who call Texas home. Divisive policies like SB 1070 and SB 4 are fueled by racism and xenophobia and have no place in Arizona, Texas, or anywhere,” said Victoria López, director of program and strategy for the ACLU of Arizona. “The cost to immigrants as well as citizens across the state is too great. Arizonans traveling in Texas will be at risk of getting swept up in this scheme to criminalize and deport people of color. This is nothing more than political grandstanding at the expense of immigrants.”
These new laws were passed by the legislature despite fierce opposition from communities across Texas, immigrant rights’ organizations and even many lawmakers. Extremist politicians were able to pass these bills by expanding an undemocratic majority built on gerrymandering and onerous and unnecessary voting restrictions that disenfranchise many of the same communities of color now most affected by these new laws.
“Arizona politicians tried to circumvent the law and take on federal immigration enforcement with SB 1070 but they failed. In the wake of 1070, Arizona faced boycotts, costly lawsuits, and a soiled reputation. Arizona families and communities suffered separation, violations of their rights, and long-lasting trauma. Extremist politicians in Texas refuse to learn from our mistakes,” said López. “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and communities in Texas in opposition to this bill.”
The travel advisory can be found here.