McALLEN – Top law enforcement officials in Hidalgo County including the Sheriff Eddie Guerra along with local police chiefs want their respective residents to know that Senate Bill 4 (SB4) does not grant deputies or police officers the authority to enforce immigration laws or to deport undocumented immigrants.
In a Facebook Live post Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, the controversial legislation also know as the “anti-sanctuary cities bill” into law Sunday May 7 that would allow police to inquire about the immigration status of people they lawfully detain.
Guerra addressed the Texas state Governor Greg Abbott has stated recently SB4 is simply a mechanism such that when someone with a criminal record or who is also wanted by I.C.E. they are going to be held and detained and turned over to I.C.E.
The Sheriff went on to say the Governor went on to affirm, “if you have not committed a crime, regardless of your immigration status and unless you are subject to an I.C.E. retainer, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Senate Bill 4 also prohibits any discrimination against any person and the law enforcement executives made clear that any officer regardless of the agency they work for who is found to be discriminating on persons based on their nationality will face serious consequences.
“We want to assure the communities we serve we will always prioritize their protection and safety from the criminal element that never rests,” Guerra said. “To all the people we serve we want you to know that we are here to help you and we want you to continue working with us.”
McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez echoed on the Sheriff's theme and said SB4 is a source of concern many in the community. It is the hope of his police department that they can help citizens see through the fog of this new law.
Under the bill, Rodriguez said some agencies have greater responsibilities than others like agencies with jails.
“But all of us are here to serve as police officers,” he said. “It is in the context of serving our role as police officers that it is important for all of us to understand how Senate Bill 4 affects us.”
Rodriguez said SB4 does not change the legal requirements that officers must meet when approaching, detaining or arresting a member of the public. They simply cannot go around asking people about their legal status.
Regarding the notion that SB4 was designed to authorize local law enforcement to remove and deport criminals, Rodriguez said it does not. Removal and deportation is solely on the discretion that is within the jurisdiction of federal agencies.
For local law enforcement agencies it is business as usual because they have been operating within the law and will continue to do so.
Edinburg Police Chief David White said citizens should know nothing has changed within his department as well. Citizens should feel free to go to the police station without any fear regardless of legal status.
“They're you're officers and you're community and we're here to protect and serve every one of you,” he said. “Not just the residents of the United State but anyone who visits our community feel free to talk to us, we are not changing our uniforms to a green one.”