We believe locally elected sheriffs know the needs of their communities better than state and national leaders who are currently trying to tie our hands.
Our communities each have unique public safety and law enforcement needs that should not be undermined by state, unfunded mandates as authored in Senate Bill 4.
If passed, SB 4 would coerce local law enforcement to dedicate frequently scarce resources — such as jail space, on-duty officers and local tax dollars — to a job that is supposed to be done and funded by the federal government. While it is in the interest of federal agencies to let local law enforcement do its job, the costs will be entirely passed onto you, the local taxpayers. Federal enforcement should not be paid for with our local taxes. Our communities’ tax dollars should be used to invest in our local priorities and programs. It is at the local level that we are aware of the most pressing issues facing each of our Texas communities.
A law enforcement official’s foremost priority is to protect and serve our local communities, which we have done while maintaining cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The author of SB 4, state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), has accused our local departments of “perpetuating instability” because they are not focused on new and controversial federal immigration mandates. The reality is that SB 4 would perpetuate instability by making it impossible for us to effectively direct and manage our deputies. Immigrants who are here are significantly less likely to commit crimes. In fact, FBI crime statistics have found that labeled “sanctuary” cities experience lower rates of all crime types, including homicides. Further, we rely on all members of our community — regardless of race, religion or national origin — to report crimes. We cannot drive crime victims and witnesses into the shadows without undermining local public safety.
SB 4 provides zero support to local officials. In addition to opening up law enforcement departments and officers to costly litigation, the bill would force local taxpayers to shoulder the cost of ICE detainers. In 2016 alone, Texas county compliance with ICE detainers cost local taxpayers $61 million. Despite the federal government’s promises, they have only reimbursed a tiny fraction of the costs to local communities and counties. Ultimately, it is our local taxpayers that will pay even more for this unfunded state mandate. SB 4 robs our local communities of local tax dollars while hampering our ability to allocate our scarce resources to protect our communities from the largest threats facing our local neighborhoods and populations.
SB 4 is wrong because it fundamentally functions with the assumption that the state government knows what is best for our local communities. It also ignores our familiarity with our own cities and counties — and how we keep them safe. Our government is ideally designed to have the power of federal officials balanced with state and local authority. This bill is a result of anti-immigrant grandstanding and will strip local law enforcement of our designated power and ability to protect and serve our communities. We ask that the Texas House of Representatives reject SB 4 and any initiative to force local law enforcement to carry out the responsibilities of the federal government.
We hope the Texas Legislature will do better for our communities — and for the safety of Texans.
Hernandez is in Travis County. Valdez is in Dallas County. Gonzalez is in Harris County. Salazar is in Bexar County. Wiles is in El Paso County.