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The Student News Site of Paschal High School

Pantherette

The Student News Site of Paschal High School

Pantherette

Convictions Loom Large for Migrants in Texas

Texas Senate Bill 4, which gives law enforcement the ability to arrest and detain suspected illegal noncitizens without due process, will go into effect on February 6th.
Texas+Governor+Greg+Abbott+holding+up+signed+SB4+bill+criminalizing+illegal+entry+into+the+state+during+Brownsville+Texas+Historic+Border+Security+spectacle.+%28Photo+taken+Dec.+18th%2C+2023%2C+sourced+from+%40governorabbott+on+Instagram.%29
Texas Governor Greg Abbott holding up signed SB4 bill criminalizing illegal entry into the state during Brownsville “Texas Historic Border Security” spectacle. (Photo taken Dec. 18th, 2023, sourced from @governorabbott on Instagram.)

As of Monday, December 18, Governor Greg Abbott has signed Senate Bill 4 into Texas law. The bill, which is causing controversy recently, gives law enforcement the ability to arrest and detain individuals, without any due process, whom they believe to have illegally entered the country from the Mexican border. 

 

Any officer from the border or anywhere else in the state would determine if someone appears to have illegally crossed the border; officers would then be allowed to question the individual and ask for identification.

 

 If the individual is without status, they are detained and convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, which enforces a punishment of 6 months in jail. If the individual has already been convicted under SB4 and is convicted for a second time, they will then be charged as a felon and face a punishment of 20 years in prison. Once detained, the individual is given the option of self-deportation in exchange for the charges being dropped.

 

Suppose the individual does not agree to return to Mexico. In that case, they will serve the punishment and then be forcefully taken to one of the many ports of entry found along the 1,254 miles of the Mexico – Texas border. 

 

Now that Abbott has signed, the bill is set to be effective on February 6, 2024, according to the LegiScan website.

 

Opponets of this law argue that it is unconstitutional. Besides the fact that state law enforcement is not trained in immigration law, in the 2012 case of Arizona v US, the Supreme Court ruled that immigration laws were a matter of the federal government and that local and state law enforcement did not have the power to arrest an individual based on immigration status. This was in relation to a very similar law passed in Arizona, Senate Bill 1070, which made it illegal for a migrant to not be carrying their identification papers and allowed law enforcement to make a determination on the individual’s immigration status.  

 

Supporters, on the other hand, claim that the federal government is not doing enough to combat illegal immigration and praise Abbott and the Texas government for taking it upon themselves to undertake such a task. Some have even expressed intentions to have the law contested at the Supreme Court level so that they can potentially overturn the 2012 decision. 

 

State Representative David Spiller claims the law is constitutional because it simply follows federal law.

 

However, Francisco Hernandez, a Fort Worth lawyer who specializes in Criminal Law and is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, thinks differently and says, “SB4 is only a political ghost to make everybody scared. Every single police officer swears to uphold the constitution of the United States and the laws of the United States when they take their job.”

 

 Hernandez continues, “They already have, not just the authority, but probably the obligation to do what SB4 aims to do. The problem is that police officers don’t want to be enforcing immigration laws, and it is going to be so expensive for states to prosecute, arrest, deport or do anything they want to do. It is just a political ghost. But the issue does need to be addressed, and Congress always blames it on somebody else.”

 

Jessica Becerra, a representative of our district’s Student Placement Center and Communication Department, provided a response on district policy about laws like SB4; “With the introduction of a new law, our primary goal remains the creation of an inclusive environment where each student feels safe, valued, and at ease. By fostering a sense of safety, welcome, and comfort, the district aims to cultivate a conducive learning atmosphere that promotes every student’s overall well-being and academic success. This commitment emphasizes the district’s dedication to ensuring a supportive educational experience for all.” 

 

Along with SB 4, Abbott has also signed Senate Bill 3. This bill would allow for the funneling of $1.5 Billion in tax money to the border wall. Abbott has also expressed interest in supplying troopers with 40 million dollars of that money to crack down on a migrant residential development named Colony Ridge in the Liberty County part of Houston, which has recently become one of the targets of Republican politicians who claim that it is a cartel den with complete mayhem transpiring. Reporters who have visited argue that the claims are false and that it is a representation of the American Dream, where migrants can find affordable housing without the worries of needing to provide documents that they don’t have. Texas Department of Safety Director Steve McCraw denied claims that the area is a “no-go” zone for law enforcement and said the crime rate is relatively low. 

 

What do these laws have to do with High School students in Fort Worth? Many of our students and their families have been closely watching and keeping up with the controversy surrounding SB4 as a law. Along with recent comments that Abbott has shared about shooting immigrants crossing the Rio Grande, the border has yet again become a hotly debated topic in Texas. It is now more important than ever for our students and community to stay informed on such issues, all for the advancement of discourse and the hope of finding solutions to our differences.

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About the Contributor
Hector Valenzuela, Reporter
Hector Valenzuela (12) is a reporter for the Paschal Pantherette. This is his first year on the staff but he is elated to begin writing meaningful stories. He has varied interests and you can count on him to write about almost any subject. In his free time he enjoys reading.
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    Dulce RodriguezFeb 1, 2024 at 5:08 pm

    Good job Hector

    Reply