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ACLU issues travel advisory for Texas over concerns of unjust arrest and deportation

Little Rock, Arkansas – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a stark warning to anyone considering travel to Texas, particularly residents of neighboring states. This advisory comes in light of recent legislative changes in Texas that could significantly impact civil and constitutional rights. The ACLU cautions travelers from Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana about the heightened risks they might face while in Texas.

The core of the ACLU’s concern revolves around Texas Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4), a recent immigration bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. Though this law is not set to take effect until 2024, its implications have already raised alarm bells. The ACLU outlines two specific sections of the bill as particularly troubling:

  1. Section 4 of S.B. 4 introduces a new state crime for unauthorized entry or re-entry into Texas from a foreign country. The ACLU criticizes this section for granting excessive power to state and local law enforcement, who often lack training in immigration and civil rights law. Moreover, this section permits Texas judges, in some cases, to direct people for deportation into Mexico, potentially bypassing legal protections.
  2. Section 3 of the Bill creates harsh penalties for those accused of “human smuggling,” with sentences of up to 10 years. This has led to charges against minors as young as 14.

The enforcement of S.B. 4 is widely regarded as challenging, with many, including judges and law enforcement officers in Texas, deeming it unconstitutional and unenforceable. It’s feared that native-born Texans could be at risk of deportation to countries they have never lived in.

The ACLU of Arizona has drawn parallels between S.B. 4 and Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, often referred to as the “papers, please” law. Victoria López, director of program and strategy for the ACLU of Arizona, expressed concerns over the potential for citizens and immigrants alike to be unjustly criminalized and deported, particularly people of color. She described the bill as political grandstanding at the expense of immigrants.

The ACLU’s advisory doesn’t just focus on law enforcement; it also highlights concerns about judges untrained in immigration law making decisions that could violate state and federal laws under S.B. 4.

Given these circumstances, the ACLU advises travelers to Texas to be prepared for potential unjust arrest or deportation. In case of being stopped by law enforcement, the ACLU recommends:

  • Staying calm and not obstructing the officer.
  • Being truthful about immigration status without providing false documents.
  • Knowing your rights, including the right to remain silent and consult a lawyer.
  • Complying with Texas law, which requires providing name, address, and date of birth if lawfully arrested or detained.
  • Refusing consent to searches unless there is probable cause.
  • Carrying proof of citizenship or immigration status if over 18.

Additionally, the ACLU suggests preparing for the possibility of arrest, detention, and deportation. This includes having a care plan for dependents, a communication plan with family and employers, keeping immigration documents accessible, securing digital privacy on devices, and memorizing the phone number of a licensed attorney.

The full advisory, outlining these recommendations in detail, can be accessed on the ACLU’s website. This advisory serves as a caution to those traveling to Texas and highlights the broader implications of immigration legislation on civil liberties.

Olivia Martinez



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