Courts encouraged to overturn unconstitutional law, SB4
AUSTIN -- As major cities and smaller communities throughout Texas join together in a lawsuit in federal court to oppose state legislation targeting “sanctuary cities,” the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops reiterates its opposition to Senate Bill 4, the law which threatens to drive a wedge between law enforcement and their local communities and which denies the reality of the majority of newcomers to the United States.
The bishops reiterate America’s immigration laws are in desperate need of reform. Families are separated and visa holders wait decades for permanent resident status. Immigrants who try to work for a better life for their families are being denied. America suffers because of the barriers stopping individuals who wish to contribute positively by their entrepreneurship, energy and enthusiasm for America’s ideals.
As Bishop Daniel Flores of the Brownsville Diocese wrote at the time of the law’s passage, “This law promotes uncertainty and ambiguity. People are now afraid that pretexts will be invented so that they can be stopped and asked about their immigration status. Yes, the law prohibits discrimination and profiling, but the immigrant poor are not likely to have the resources or the counsel needed to defend themselves.”
The new Texas law specifically is disproportionately burdensome to the poor and those who are Hispanic (regardless of their immigration status). By requiring local police to comply with ICE detainer requests and allowing them to inquire into a person’s legal status, it also fractures trust in law enforcement. Without honest communication with residents, community policing becomes ineffective and makes Texans less safe.
The enforcement of immigration law is within the right of a sovereign nation, but such laws, at a minimum, should be consistent with the constitution of the United States and enforcement should provide punishments which are proportional to an offence.
The bishops have been consistent in their opposition to legislation which does not promote comprehensive immigration reform. They have provided testimony before legislators; published editorials; spoken at press conferences, in homilies and public events; issued numerous public statements; and raised awareness through bulletin inserts and diocesan newspapers.
The bishops believe that SB4 is unconstitutional and unjust. “We call on our judges to act with wisdom and justice and overturn this law,” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of the San Antonio Archdiocese. “This law neglects the divine mandate to welcome the stranger and provide comfort to the oppressed.”
The bishops will continue to oppose unjust laws such as Senate Bill 4 and work tirelessly to support migrants and refugees who are affected by this kind of legislation. Their ongoing pastoral initiatives are now part of Pope Francis’ worldwide campaign, “Share the Journey,” to heighten awareness of the tragedy of millions of people fleeing war, religious persecution, violence and poverty. Pope Francis has called on all people to respond with compassion to our sisters and brothers, and the Texas bishops pledge to continue their fraternal solidarity.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. The TCCB represents 15 dioceses and 19 active bishops. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice, accredit the state's Catholic schools, and maintain archives that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.