Town Hall addresses community’s concerns about Senate Bill 4

The Irving Police Department (IPD) hosted a town hall meeting in Irving High School’s auditorium on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to discuss the IPD’s response to Senate Bill 4 and address the town’s concerns. The halls filled with Irving residents and families in a mix of work uniforms and bright red hats and shirts reading “Stop SB4, keep families united — sí se puede.”

Senate Bill 4 (SB4) prohibits any policy limiting local law enforcement officers from communicating and cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), thereby cracking down on ‘sanctuary cities.’ The Texas bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in May and took effect at 12 a.m. on Sept. 1. Only hours before the bill was to take effect, federal judge Orlando L. Garcia of the Western District of Texas handed down a ruling preventing some provisions of SB4 from becoming law while leaving in place other elements some consider controversial.

“This is too important of a topic for you to rely on third party information,” Police Chief Jeff Spivey said. “That’s the purpose of this meeting: to stop rumors and get the truth out.”

Some cities, including Houston in wake of Hurricane Harvey, as well as Arlington, have declared they will not comply with this law. Legal repercussions remain to be seen but could include fines and removal of acting officials.

The IPD will comply with the law, but emphasized the department’s victim protection measures should reassure community members.

Since the majority of lawful detainments occur in response to traffic violations, officers noted the most effective way to avoid encounters with the new law is to avoid driving when possible.

“It’s impossible not to drive,” one woman said to much applause. “We have jobs and kids to take to school.”

 “I have clients who have gone back to living in the shadows,” another attendee said. “People are afraid to drive their children to school. All of the Irving residents are not represented here.”

“We want to let everybody in Irving feel safe,” Officer Charlie Cavazos said. “Those who come here, those who live here, all those who visit here.”

Officers encouraged those present to ask for clarification of their rights from officers. Aside from name, address and date of birth, all legally detained people have the right to remain silent in response to questioning.

“While the new law does not require or prohibit it, the Irving Police Department has chosen to specifically prohibit officers from asking [victims, witnesses and those who report crimes their immigration status],” an information sheet on the city of Irving’s website states. “The goal of the department is to protect victims of crime and to make the city safe for all. They should not be afraid to call the police if they need help.”

An exception to this departmental rule is victims who may require special paperwork to remain in the country until their cases are processed.

While officers are allowed to ask unidentified persons of their immigration status, a racial profiling standard requires any officer who asks one person must repeat the question to all other unidentified people they detain. Body cameras will be used to ensure this standard.

Officers also have some discretion the documents allowed for identification. While a valid U.S. driver’s license is sufficient in all cases, licenses which have expired may also be sufficient if other documents with the same name can be presented. Some officers said they simply ask for a phone number, where a third party can confirm the detained person’s name.

If a speeding ticket is signed, the speeder will not need to be taken into custody, regardless of immigration status. ICE would not be notified in that case.

A flyer entitled “Senate Bill 4 Q&A” offers more information in English and Spanish and is available on the city of Irving’s website. The city also offers Spanish and English informational videos on the topic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he will appeal Judge Garcia’s ruling. The issues will likely battle their way to the Supreme Court.

Some of the portions of SB4 put on hold:

A provision requiring local jails to honor federal agents’ requests to incarcerate immigrants for up to 48 hours after they would have been released on bond, finished sentence, or found not guilty, so ICE could pick them up.

A provision preventing local officials from “endorsing,” or appearing to endorse, any policy even materially limiting immigration enforcement.

A provision requiring local police to allow officers to cooperate with federal agents whenever possible, including “enforcement assistance” of federal immigration law, thereby requiring local officers to act as federal agents.