ALBUQUERQUE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates of New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, San Diego and Imperial Counties, and Texas issued an advisory warning people traveling through Texas to know their rights and take significant precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones because of extremist laws Texas lawmakers have passed targeting immigrants and people of color.
Texas’s new laws are backed by white supremacists and represent an extreme new step in the state’s growing anti-immigrant legislation, which includes Operation Lone Star and the installation of cruel concertina wire fencing and river buoys with razors on the Rio Grande. One law, SB4-88S4, creates a new state crime for unauthorized entry or re-entry into Texas from a foreign country. It puts tremendous power in the hands of local and state law enforcement who are not trained in immigration law and have no proper authority to enforce it. It includes a provision to allow Texas judges to order people leave Texas and go to Mexico without a chance to seek legal protections to which they’re entitled.
“The Borderlands communities have long worked together across state boundaries to welcome and support people seeking safety and asylum in the U.S. with shared infrastructure, resources, and humanitarian expertise,” said Peter Simonson, ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director. “We reject any effort to dismantle that work by extremist politicians and stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Texas in opposition to this bill.”
Another law signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on November 21, SB4-88S3, creates up to 10-year minimum sentences for people accused of “human smuggling,” under which Texas has charged children as young as 14 to 17.
“We’re deeply troubled by Texas’s assault on our fundamental civil rights. New Mexicans traveling in Texas will be at risk of getting swept up and ordered deported under this legislation, or charged under extreme sentencing minimums,” said Leonardo Castañeda, ACLU of New Mexico Border and Immigration Policy Advocate. “Many New Mexicans, both longtime residents and newly arrived, rely on neighboring Texas cities for specialized medical care, education, air travel, and more. We fear this new law will deter New Mexicans from accessing these necessary services.”
These new laws were passed by the legislature despite fierce opposition from everyday Texans, immigrant rights’ organizations and even many lawmakers. Extremist politicians were able to pass these bills by expanding an undemocratic majority built on gerrymandering and onerous and unnecessary voting restrictions that disenfranchise many of the same communities of color now most affected by these new laws. Countless residents of states bordering Texas have family and loved ones on both sides of the state borders and are at risk of these laws that fly in the face of our shared values.
This joint travel advisory highlights the solidarity of communities surrounding Texas, as well as fellow border states, against punitive and counter-productive policies that harm our immigrant communities and do nothing to welcome people seeking safety and refuge at our southern border.