by Allen J. Sheinman | May 11, 2017
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a "travel alert" on May 9, informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement. 
 
The alert comes amid the passing of Texas law SB4, to take effect on Sept. 1, which gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person's immigration status during a routine traffic stop, a practice the ACLU warns could lead to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be "foreign" based on how they look or sound. The travel alert applies to all travelers to Texas, including those from other states, whether or not U.S. citizens. In addition, this alert applies to all encounters with federal, state and county law enforcement, including local police and sheriffs. 
 
"The ACLU's goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas - regardless of their immigration status - from illegal harassment by law enforcement," said Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns. "Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump's draconian deportation force."
 
According to the ACLU, SB4 requires Texas law enforcement to comply with a constitutionally flawed federal use of detainer requests, which ask local law enforcement to hold people for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even when they lack the legal authority to do so. 
 
"We plan to fight this racist and wrongheaded law in the courts and in the streets. Until we defeat it, everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what's in store for them," said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. "The Lone Star State will become a 'show me your papers' state, where every interaction with law enforcement can become a citizenship interrogation and potentially an illegal arrest."
 
Burke added: "It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur. Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person's rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so."
 
While SB4 is set to go into effect on Sept. 1, 2017, the ACLU is concerned that some law enforcement officers might begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly sooner, and asks those who believe their rights have been violated because of the law to contact their Texas office at (888) 507-2970.

ACLU "Know Your Rights" materials relevant to SB4 are available here in English and Spanish.