Texas Proposes Potentially Harmful Immigration Legislation

Immigration Justice

immigrants marching across the united states flag

Unauthorized entry of migrants into the United States along the country’s southern border has long been a contentious issue. That contention has intensified over the last decade—with Texas often being at the center of controversy.

Texas is again in the immigration spotlight with passage of highly controversial Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4). This legislation, if enacted, would put immigration enforcement authority at the state instead of federal level, according to an NASW blog post written by Mel Wilson, NASW senior policy adviser, in collaboration with Social Workers for Immigration Justice (SWIJ). Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Make it a state crime to cross the Texas-Mexico border between ports of entry. If a police officer has probable cause to believe a person crossed the Rio Grande, that person could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor or the charge could be increased to a second-degree felony if the person is a repeat offender.
  • Allow judges to drop charges if the migrant agrees to return to their country of origin.
  • Require state judges to issue an order for police to transport migrants to a port of entry if they are convicted and have served their sentence. Migrants who refuse to return to their country of origin could face a felony charge.
  • Prohibit police from arresting migrants in public or private schools; churches or other places of worship; or health care facilities or facilities that provide forensic examinations of sexual assault survivors.

The authors point out that the bill impacts not only immigrants but all Texans, creating an environment of fear and mistrust. It has consequences that touch health care, social services, education, and the lives of everyday citizens. “With that in mind, we must be concerned that nongovernmental providers—including social workers—may suffer collateral damage under the law,” the authors state.

S.B. 4 also has national implications. In line with a growing movement toward states’ rights in governing, the bill is one of a number of Texas challenges to constitutional boundaries regarding immigration, the authors say. “In our current, divisive political environment, other states with strong states’ rights agendas will likely mimic S.B. 4. Aside from creating a fragmented immigration system, such laws will threaten the constitutionally protected civil and human rights of vulnerable people such as asylum seekers and migrant children. The most immediate guardrail against this threat is our federal court system. The hope is that the SCOTUS will uphold the U.S. Constitution and keep immigration enforcement at the federal level.”

Read more on the Social Work blog.

Social Work Advocates National Association of Social Workers Spring 2024 Cover

Social Work Advocates Flipbook

NASW members, sign in to read the Spring 2024 issue as a flipbook