A request for the city to stand against Texas Senate Bill 4, known as the Sanctuary City Bill, had a lot of discussion, but city fathers stopped short of considering joining a lawsuit against the measure.
Steven Green, president of the Madison County unit of the NAACP, presented a resolution to the Madisonville City Council, detailing some of the inadequacies of the bill and seeking action from the city, up to and including joining a lawsuit filed by the city of San Antonio against the state.
Green said that 22 percent of the population of Madisonville is Hispanic.
“The worst thing that Senate Bill 4 does is drive a wedge between law enforcement and the Hispanic community, which has lived here, worked here and makes the community what it is,” Green said. “This bill makes them feel they are under attack. SB4 makes them stay home and they feel unwelcome.”
Before SB4, the community could set policies and standards that reflect the community, he said.
“City law enforcement could set policies for the benefit of everyone in the community,” Green said. “This bill erodes trust, and makes the entire community less safe.”
He said that Austin has put into place laws that strip local control from law enforcement organizations, and it creates draconian punishment against local officials who exercise their freedom of speech.
“It prevents police chiefs and sheriffs from developing guidelines to determine immigration status,” Green said. “Police chiefs can be fined for non-compliance.”
The bill provides for $25,000 per day fines.
He also said civic organizations and law enforcement officials are concerned about rampant racial profiling of its residents, and that the Hispanic community will stop reporting crimes or seeking assistance as victims for fear of deportation.
“We don’t feel SB4 represents the values of Madisonville, and we do not feel that the state should have the power to fine and imprison local officials for standing up for what is right,” he said. “We are not asking for you to go against the law, we are asking for you to send a message to the community that you value each person and their right to live here, that you stand against racial profiling and value due process.”
Several options, from passing a resolution in opposition to the bill to joining a lawsuit filed by other Texas cities, were offered, but as the agenda item was written as simply joining the lawsuit, the council declined action.
Mayor Bill Parten said that given the cost of joining a lawsuit, and obligating future councils to the matter, the matter needed more consideration.
Brendan Mikeska of the NAACP said the intention simply was to have the city send a message to the community, especially the Hispanic community, that there are options, ways to approach this, and asking a person who jaywalks across the street to show citizenship papers is not who we are as a community.
Council Member Russell Bailey said that to stand in support of or against anything doesn’t require joining litigation.
“This needs to be toned down a little,” he said. “There’s still a lot going on. I’m not in favor of deciding tonight what we should do.”