Houston lawmakers and activists react to judge's pause on Senate bill that permits immigrant arrest

Saturday, March 2, 2024
Houston lawmakers and activists react to judge's order to block Senate Bill 4 that permits arrest of illegal immigrants
All eyes are on Texas as a pivotal player in the immigration debate leading up to the election after a judge temporarily suspended Senate Bill 4.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- All eyes are on Texas as a pivotal player in the immigration debate leading up to the election after a judge temporarily suspended Senate Bill 4.

The bill allows local and state law enforcement to arrest migrants crossing into the state illegally.

Immigrant led civil rights organization, FIEL, held a news conference on Friday with local lawmakers and called the bill unconstitutional, stating that it encourages profiling.

According to Cesar Espinosa, Executive Director of FIEL, Houston is considered a transitionary city. Recent studies show that one in ten immigrants are undocumented and one in four Houstonians live in a mixed-status family.

"If people were, in theory, to start massively leaving, that would affect our economy, our housing market," Espinosa said. "That could have a devastating and long-lasting impact."

Espinosa and opponents of the bill say they are cautiously optimistic about the judge's ruling.

"We are happy that a federal judge has given a say in the implementation of this anti-immigration law, but also understand that this is the first hurdle in a series of legal hurdles these challenges face," Espinosa said.

Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt co-sponsored the bill and said the immigration system is broken and current border laws are not being enforced.

"The obvious problem is when you have an open border, you will have all sorts of problems with crime, sex trafficking, you name it -- drug, off the charts," Sen. Bettencourt said. "These stories go on and on and it's time for them to stop and the only way to stop is to close the border"

The bill is designed to allow law enforcement to detain someone and deport them, acting as immigration agents. This would include HPD, a department recently under fire for suspending thousands of police reports due to a shortage of staffing.

What both sides can agree on is that there is a long road ahead that will most likely make its way to the Supreme Court. Attorney General Ken Paxton has already appealed the ruling.

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