Traveling to Texas May Result in Violation of Constitutional Rights, ACLU Warns

HELENA, MT — The American Civil Liberties Union issued a “travel alert” today 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 a Texas law known as SB4. The law gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading 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 U.S. travelers from other states and U.S. citizens.  In addition, this alert applies to all encounters with federal, state, county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.

SB4 requires Texas law enforcement to comply with the federal government’s constitutionally flawed 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.

“New Mexicans travel to Texas to shop, go to doctor’s appointments, and visit family and friends all the time, particularly people living in Southern and Southeastern New Mexico,” said Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights in Las Cruces. “We aim to warn them of the real possibility of racial profiling and illegal conduct by local police. We will stand with our colleagues in Texas to ensure the rights of New Mexicans and others who travel through Texas are protected.”

Between 2008 and 2012, ICE requested local law enforcement to hold 834 U.S. citizens, some of whom subsequently spent days in jail as a result. Under SB4, the state of Texas is placing the rights of its residents, including U.S. citizens, in extreme jeopardy.

“As a state that borders Texas, we’re extremely concerned for the safety of New Mexicans who travel to that state and who may fit a certain racial profile,” said Maria Martinez Sanchez, staff attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico. “Everyone in this country has irrevocable constitutional rights. With SB 4, it is just a matter of time before abuses of these rights begin to occur. New Mexicans should not have to worry that their constitutional rights will be violated simply by crossing into a neighboring state.”

Other ACLU affiliates also issued a Texas travel alert. These include:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

SB4 will go into effect on September 1, 2017. However, the ACLU is concerned that some law enforcement officers may begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly now. The ACLU of Texas plans to fight the law.

If you believe your rights have been violated because of SB4, please contact the ACLU of Texas at 1-888-507-2970.

ACLU “Know Your Rights” materials are available in a variety of languages here:
www.aclu.org/know-your-rights

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