SB9 could go up for a vote in the Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Committee as early as tomorrow. Valley Senator Hinojosa, who sits on the committee, has not come out against the bill.
What’s the big deal about SB 9 and why should Senator Hinojosa come out against it?
“Secure Communities” program makes communities less secure
SB 9 codifies into state law the current Secure Communities procedures of having immigration status checked in local and county jails. S-Comm is that nasty federal immigration enforcement program that has resulted in the deportation of victims of domestic violence and which targets immigrants with low level offenses or no criminal record whatsoever. That means that if there are local jails still not participating, it will force them to do so before the federal government does. And if the federal government makes an opt-out possible in the future, Texas localities won’t be able to opt out, prohibited by state law. The intent is to have all city and county jails verify immigration status no matter what the federal government says.
By making S-Comm a state law, Texas politicians would force local law enforcement to do the work of federal immigration authorities, despite their already overtaxed workloads. By forcing already overburdened law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law, the state legislature would be placing increased burdens on both public employee and hard working immigrant families they work to protect.
License to frustrate
But it gets worse.
The Drivers License provisions in SB9 increase the problem of overtaxed public employees being forced to meddle in federal immigration law. Those provisions provide extensive discretion to DPS to implement rules that would tie immigration status to the issuance of Driver’s Licenses. Under current DPS guidelines, US Citizens have been denied a Drivers License for being foreign born despite providing a US Passport because DPS policies considered the US Passport insufficient evidence of citizenship.
The issue has become so complex that persons now have to get lawyers to represent them and call DPS’s general counsel to work out their individual Driver’s License issue on a consistent basis. Because of the complexity of the issue and the haphazard application of the law, many complaints are being made, thus using up additional resources from DPS. MALDEF, which has worked to ensure fair access to Driver’s Licenses in the state of Texas, has received reports from DPS employees saying that they wished these rules never went into effect because of the rising number of complaints and the complexity of the issues.
SB9 would essentially codify the existing rules and allow DPS to implement future rules denying Driver’s Licenses to immigrants based on their interpretations of immigration law.
DPS should have the responsibility to ensure that drivers understand traffic laws and are physically capable of driving safely, not determine immigration status. DPS employees have an important job to do making sure that drivers are properly prepared to take to the road. They don’t want and don’t need the added responsibility of determining immigration status–especially when the rules DPS creates cause DPS workers to deny US Citizens and other drivers license-eligible immigrants their right to transportation.
Decreasing Balance, Increasing Pressure
Texas voters understand that the system is unbalanced and unfair. They believe that hard working, honest immigrants shouldn’t have to go through family separations and that Driver’s License-eligible Texans shouldn’t have to fight DPS for their right to transportation. What’s more, they too are feeling pressure under that system. They are facing increased burdens under budget cuts and increased workloads and are struggling to do their job well. SB9 aspires to further increase their workload and pit them against immigrants in their community by making it a matter of law that they take on the added responsibility of immigration enforcement.
SB9 is unfair to immigrants and public employees and must be opposed now.