Texas Bill Creates More Fear and Uncertainty for Refugees and Immigrants

WASHINGTON—This week, the Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), and Governor Abbott is expected to sign the legislation in the next few days. The law is scheduled to go into effect on September 1, 2017.

HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, is deeply concerned about the impact this legislation will have on refugees and immigrants in Texas. The law enables local law enforcement officials to question anyone they think is in the U.S. illegally, simply because of how they speak or the color of their skin. The bulk of this proposed legislation mirrors Arizona's highly controversial SB 1070, which was enacted in 2010 and partially struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.

"This bill will not make anyone safer," said Melanie Nezer, HIAS' Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. "Instead, it will add to an atmosphere of fear where refugees, immigrants, and U.S. citizens distrust the local law enforcement officers who are supposed to be keeping their communities safe. For refugees and asylees who have already fled dangerous situations, becoming an automatic suspect who can be interrogated at any time is particularly traumatic.”

If passed, SB 4 would allow the U.S. government to hold children seeking asylum in detention for the entirety of their court cases, which often take at least several months.  

"This is no way to treat anyone, let alone children who are seeking protection in our country," added Nezer.

HIAS proudly stands with over 70 Texas rabbis and several congregations who are committed to promoting welcome for immigrants and refugees in Texas and around the country. In a letter last year to Governor Abbott, the group of Texas rabbis stated that “our biblical tradition teaches us to ‘welcome the stranger’ with compassion, and to care for those in need.”

The communities and people of Texas have warmly welcomed thousands of refugees. In fact, Texas resettles more refugees than any other state. This law is a betrayal not only of the newest Texans, but of the hospitality, faith, and welcome offered by Texans who through their churches and synagogues and on their own, have been so generous with their time and resources in helping refugee families start their new lives in safety and freedom.


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