Gov. Abbott is getting his signing pen warmed to ban sanctuary cities, but what about his heart for its citizen children victims?

(Jalyn Catro testifying at the Texas Senate hearing on SB 4 in February)

 

Good Friday Austin:

On Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Senate sent the bill banning sanctuary cities, which Gov. Greg Abbott had made one of his four emergency items this session, on its way to Abbott’s desk.

From the Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh:

The bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

After the Texas House last week approved Senate Bill 4 after an emotional 16-hour debate, the Senate, which had already passed its own version, on Wednesday voted 20-11 along party lines to approve the House’s modifications, averting the need for a joint committee to hash out the differences between the two chambers’ versions.

At the beginning of the legislative session, Abbott said banning sanctuary cities, the common term for local jurisdictions that decline in some way to assist federal immigration enforcement, was one of his priorities for lawmakers.

SB 4 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, imposes stiff penalties on local governments and officials who lead local police forces that restrict when officers can inquire about subjects’ immigration status and on county jails that don’t cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detainer” requests, meant to facilitate deportation proceedings for inmates suspected of being unauthorized immigrants.

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, attempted to soften the bill after it was passed by the Senate, but the lower chamber ended up making it tougher when it adopted amendments proposed by tea party-aligned legislators.

During Wednesday’s debate, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, questioned Perry over one of those provisions — labeled by critics as the “show me your papers” amendment — that requires police departments to let their officers ask immigration-related questions of anyone who has been detained, a broad category that includes those involved in routine traffic stops.

Whitmire noted that he and Perry, both white men, were unlikely to face such questions, while many Latino Texans will have a new reason to fear interactions with police.

I don’t know what kind of pen the governor has that requires warming up, but the governor has made every effort to become the national face of the effort to ban sanctuary cities.

I don’t know when the governor tweeted the news that he would soon be able to sign SB 4, whether he was mindful of the image that would accompany his tweet.

It was a nicely composed image of a few student protesters gathered in the Capitol Rotunda encircled by 360 degrees of signs protesting SB 4 with these messages:

  • Students Against S.B. 4
  • Longhorns Against SB4
  • SB4 is Racist
  • Keep our families together
  • (A visual representation of eyes) of Texas are upon you Abbott
  • SB4 divides families
  • I was a stranger and you took me in
  • UT LULAC against SB4
  • SB4 not 4 the  people
  • SB4 in a circle with a line through it
  • Sin papeles, sin miedo (Without papers, without fears)
  • What would Jesus do? #stopSB4

From the accompanying Houston Chronicle story by Bobby Cervantes.

Calling it a “status quo bill,” GOP Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock said his SB 4 does not change the way a Texas police officer can detain a person who they suspect could be involved in a crime. He defended the bill from critics who said it will lead to racial profiling and turn Texas police officers into federal immigration authorities.

“Nowhere in the bill as it came back from the House does it instruct officers to demand papers,” Perry said. “Nowhere in the bill does it allow an officer to enforce federal immigration law. Officers still do not have the authority to arrest someone merely for being unlawfully present (in the country), which is a federal power.”

Several Democratic senators challenged Perry’s assertions about how the bill would empower police and about the effects SB 4 would have on the immigrant communities in their districts.

“It’s gone from a bad bill to a really, really bad, horrible bill that will result in police officers investigating the immigration status of a person, including children, without probable cause,” said Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Houston. “I’m afraid this legislation will lead to harassment and profiling of Latinos, and this is the last thing any of us would want. … This bill will go from a broken tail light to a broken family to broken faith in our system.”

Earlier in the day, the governor was on with Lou Dobbs, bragging on the legislation.

And, of the criticism that it is anti-immigrant, Abbott said:

As everyone knows Texas is a very welcoming state. Texas is made up of immigrants. And Texas is very pro immigration. The issue is illegal immigration and people need to distinguish the distinct difference between the two.

Texas has been long connected to the Hispanic community, even before Texas was a state, and we remain that way, and by and large the Hispanic community agrees that the rule of law is to be applied and enforced and that’s all we are seeking to do. Texas will be a very safe state for everybody, one that follows the rule of law and will lead he way in a way that’s fair to everybody.

But the line between legal and illegal is not that neat, even in many families.

As the sanctuary cities legislation cleared its final hurdles, I thought of the young girl who I wrote about a previous First Reading back in early February after the wrenching all-day and all-night Senate hearing on SB 4.

Here is Jalyn Castro, an 11-year-old, fifth grader from Arlington. (Jalyn is the name she is identified by on the witness list, but I think she calls herself Janet when she introduces herself.)

I am here to tell you, the people that make the laws, that SB 4 will hurt my family and I personally. I am really scared that one day I will get home and my parents may not be there. I fear that I will have no one to take care of me or my puppy.

I personally will be very depressed if SB 4 passes and separates me from my family.

My parents work hard all day to get me whatever I need in life. For example, my dad has a job from 8 to 5 and he always finds extra jobs, coming home late at night. I’ve seen him come home dusty, dirty and tired and I never hear him complain. He does all this to make sure that everyone in our family gets what we need.

Without my family, I would have nobody to care for me. No one to help me with anything. And no one to love me.

Please do not separate my, nor anybody’s family, because we will all be depressed and sad if you take away our families. Thank you for listening.

I spoke earlier this year, and again this week, with Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, where he is also the Robert lee Sutherland chair in mental health  and social policy.

Zayas is the author of the 2015 book, Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, And the Making of American Exiles and Orphans.

 

From the preface:

 


Zayas cites the work of demographer Randy Capps and his colleagues who have estimated that “for every two undocumented immigrants deported, one citizen-child is directly affected. In this case, affected means the citizen child is separated from one or both parents suddenly for what could be several days to several months. If the parent or parents are deported, the citizen-child has to stay in the United States in the care of someone other than parents, enter the child-welfare system, or reside with the un-deported parent if that option exists. Alternatively, that child might eventually travel to another country and resettle there with his or her parents.”

Between 2005 and 2013, Zayas told me, more than 3 million people have been deported from the United States affecting more than 1.5 million citizen children.

This has lots of implications.

Obviously, there are those who are effectively orphaned when their parents are deported, only they often don’t know if and when they will see their parents again.

“They suffer ambiguous loss,” Zayas said. “They’ve lost a parent but they don’t know when they will be reunited.”

There is no finality, he said, “and that’s the hardest grief of all.”

For those who return with their deported parent or parents to a land they’ve never lived in, he said, “they are exiled because that is not their country, this is their country.”

They almost certainly won’t have the same education, health care and standard of living they had in the United States, but they will still be American citizens who can return to the United States when they want to, and if and when they do return to the United States, Zayas said, they will in many cases return, despite their citizenship, with lower education and skill levels.

“They will look much more like their undocumented parents,” Zayas said.

In the meantime, he said, those citizen children growing up in the United States with parents who are not here legally, with President Trump in the White House and the high-profile debate and now the enactment of SB 4, live lives of ceaseless anxiety.

“They walk around vigilant as to what could happen next,” Zayas said. “Every day they worry, ‘my daddy or mommy won’t come home, they will be arrested, detained, sent to Mexico or another country.’ There’s never a moment’s rest except when the whole family is home and they are alone and they let those worries wash away, but always, in the back of their minds, is the knock on the door and what that knock could mean.”

They grow up, Zayas said, with two rules – “be quiet and sit still.”

They don’t want to draw attention to themselves or their families – no tantrums at the department store, no telling anyone at school about their parent’s status.

Beyond that, he said, “kids begin to question their belonging. Territorial belonging is part of what citizenship means. The sense that this is my country, this is my land.”

But, exiled or orphaned, “they begin to wonder what country am I of, where do I belong, if my parents don’t belong, does that mean I don’t belong either?”

And yet, these are American citizens, and it seems impossible to argue that these American citizens won’t be adversely affected by the enactment of SB 4.

“They are the forgotten citizens,” said Zayas. “We need to protect our citizens from harm. That’s the role of government. We have to find ways to keep families together, preferably in this country,”

So, to be quite trite about it, it seems to me that as Gov. Abbott is warming up his signing pen, he might also want to warm up his heart, and say something as he affixes his signature on SB 4, to and about Jalyn Castro and her puppy, and how this 11-year-old citizen is supposed to cope and think about herself in a Texas where the Legislature and the governor seem almost gleeful about expunging any trace of the sanctuary her family may have found here, and in its place create an even more fearsome place where a traffic stop could destroy her whole world.

Beyond that, I also wonder whether Texas Republicans may be overplaying their hand, with perhaps some long-term consequences.

Just as the governor described it on Fox, Texas thinks of itself as a place in which Mexican identity is ingrained in its historical and cultural DNA, a state that has dealt with immigration and immigrants better and more successfully than other states. In turn, Hispanics are generally more conservative in Texas than elsewhere in the United States, and Republicans do better with Hispanic voters in Texas than Republicans do elsewhere.

Texas Republicans clearly believe that this is a winning issue for them, and it is with their voters.

From the recent Texas Lyceum poll of Texas adults (not just registered voters).

But, then look at this.

Under the law that Abbott is going to sign, a police officer can check someone’s legal status during a routine traffic stop, and that, the Lyceum Poll finds, is not so popular.

Now again, this does no harm to Republican officeholders with their base.

But I talked about this last night with Joshua Blank, the polling manager for the Texas Lyceum, and he pointed out a couple of very interesting crosstabs.

First this.

Q37B. Should immigration status be checked: when a person is reporting a crime

Look at that. Hispanics are decidedly more likely than Anglos to think that immigration status ought to be checked when a person reports a crime.

So Gov. Abbott is right in his assessment of Hispanic attitudes toward enforcing timmigration law. Right?

But then look at this.

 

Q37A. Should immigration status be checked: during a routine traffic stop

 

 

The numbers are flipped, with Hispanics a lot less likely than Anglos to think that a traffic stop should be a pretext for checking immigration status.

Why the difference?

Blank speculates it is because reporting a crime is an act of volition – an individual steps forward and initiates the encounter with police.

But the traffic stop is something that could happen to anyone – could happen to Mexican-American (or other Hispanic) Texan whose family has been in Texas for generations – since, as Abbott said, before Texas became a state. And yet, because of their color and ancestry they are, more likely, under this law, to be asked to, in effect, show the police their papers. Suddenly, some Hispanic Texans who bought into every bit of their being part of the essence of what it is to be Texan may have occasion to wonder whether something has changed.

And, while Texas Republicans may not suffer any consequences in the near term, there is the risk that they are tempting fate and putting their brand, and what made Texas different on immigration, at risk.

Said Blank, who is also the manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project at UT:

People used to regularly say, as the national GOP was moving rightward on immigration policy, that Texas Republicans were different, that they understood the demographics of their state. No one will say that anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

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