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Critics blast Texas' illegal entry bill they say is anti-immigrant, plan to sue

 A Border Patrol agent watches as a group of migrants walk across the Rio Grande on their way to turn themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, on June 15, 2021.
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
A Border Patrol agent watches as a group of migrants walk across the Rio Grande on their way to turn themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, on June 15, 2021.

Critics of a bill that would allow local and state police to arrest undocumented immigrants say they plan to challenge it.

Texas Congressional members blasted Senate Bill 4, which the Texas House passed Tuesday night and that Gov. Greg Abbott has said he’ll sign.

Speaking during a virtual press conference, Rep. Victoria Neave Criado of Dallas said the legislation would have major repercussions.

“We know that it’s going to a create a chilling effect on our immigrant community,” she said. “We want our community to report crimes and not have fear of law enforcement and that’s essentially what this bill is going to be doing.”

Neave Criado said law enforcement officers are already asked to do too much from acting as mental health counselors to liaisons for the unhoused community.

“Now we’re essentially asking them to be ICE officials, immigration officials,” she said. “They don’t have time for this."

Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio reiterated similar concerns, adding that this would give law enforcement officials in Texas wide latitude, affecting communities of color.

“Let’s be honest about who will be targeted — brown-skinned people, dark-skinned people will be targeted,” he said. “People who are seen speaking foreign languages like Spanish in public are more likely to get targeted.”

The so-called illegal entry bill is considered one of the strictest in the country. Under the measure, unauthorized entry in Texas from a foreign country would be considered a class B misdemeanor or a felony depending on a migrant’s criminal history.

On Wednesday, the League of United Latin American Citizens condemned approval of the bill as well as the passage of Senate Bill 3, which allocates $1.5 million for border walls.

“LULAC opposes this out-of-control Governor and Republicans in the legislature on a hateful rampage toward asylum seekers and refugees,” read a statement by Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. “Their actions violate federal sovereignty over immigration laws.”

Garcia said LULAC planned to file a federal lawsuit challenging what it considers unconstitutional legislation and urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Mexican Government said it rejected “anti-immigrant measures that seek to stop the flow of migrants, through their criminalization, which will result in family separation, racial discrimination and profiling.”

In its statement, Mexico added that it supports working jointly with U.S. government officials to ensure migration happens in an orderly and safe manner with respect for human rights.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Stella Chávez is KERA’s education reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35. The award-winning entry was  “Yolanda’s Crossing,” a seven-part DMN series she co-wrote that reconstructs the 5,000-mile journey of a young Mexican sexual-abuse victim from a small Oaxacan village to Dallas. For the last two years, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she was part of the agency’s outreach efforts on the Affordable Care Act and ran the regional office’s social media efforts.