Traveling to Texas May Result in Violation of Constitutional Rights, ACLU Warns

Boise, ID — The American Civil Liberties Union and several state offices, including the ACLU of Idaho, issued a “travel alert” today informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.
The alert comes amid the passing of a Texas law known as SB4, similar to Idaho’s proposed HB 76 bill that failed it the Idaho legislature in 2017. The new law in Texas gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be “foreign” based on how they look or sound.  The travel alert applies to all travelers to Texas, including U.S. travelers from other states and U.S. citizens.  In addition, this alert applies to all encounters with federal, state, county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.
“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement,” said Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns. “Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump’s draconian deportation force.”
SB4 requires Texas law enforcement to comply with the federal government’s constitutionally flawed use of detainer requests, which ask local law enforcement to hold people for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even when they lack the legal authority to do so.
“The new law in Texas is similar, if not worse, than the now infamous SB1070 show me your papers law in Arizona,” said Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho executive director. “Arizona faced multiple lawsuits to its pattern and practice of racially profiling Americans under SB1070, including from the U.S. Department of Justice. We are sounding the alarm today, because we are sincerely concerned that police stops can become a citizenship interrogation and potentially an illegal arrest.”
Between 2008 and 2012, ICE requested local law enforcement to hold 834 U.S. citizens, some of whom subsequently spent days in jail as a result. Under SB4, the state of Texas is placing the rights of its residents, including U.S. citizens, in extreme jeopardy.
“It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur. Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person’s rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail, or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so,” said Terri Burke, ACLU of Texas executive director.
Praeli said, “Everyone has constitutional rights in this country. The state of Texas, and every law enforcement officer, must respect those rights. The ACLU stands ready to safeguard those freedoms against those who seek to diminish them.”
Local ACLU affiliates also issued a Texas travel alert. These include:
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
SB4 will go into effect on September 1, 2017. However, the ACLU is concerned that some law enforcement officers may begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly now. If you believe your rights have been violated because of SB4, please contact the ACLU of Texas at 1-888-507-2970.
ACLU “Know Your Rights” materials are available in a variety of languages here: