Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has publicly cast a vision for our city to be the most livable, healthy, educated, fiscally responsible and best-managed city in the nation.
That vision cannot become reality if Senate Bill 4, the “show me your papers” legislation that legalizes racial profiling and codifies discrimination, goes into effect Sept. 1.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board favored Fort Worth watching — rather than joining — litigation supported by the four largest cities in Texas that seeks to have Senate Bill 4 declared unconstitutional (“Senate Bill 4 is wrong, but should cities sue?”, June 21).
That approach isn’t enough to ensure the economic, educational and fiscal vitality of our community.
As part of a recent trade delegation to Canada, Mayor Price showcased the benefits of operating here and touted Dallas-Fort Worth’s tourism opportunities. Yet businesses, conventions and tourists will avoid a community that supports legalized discrimination by its silence. SB 4 directly threatens the economic viability of Fort Worth if city leaders don’t go on record as acknowledging its dubious merits.
Mayor Price considers education a form of economic development. But SB 4 impedes workforce readiness. Fearful parents will not take children to school, causing loss of vital instruction time for children in pre-K through 12th grade.
Even students who do attend school will suffer academically as the stress and trauma of potential family separation becomes a classroom distraction. Joining litigation against SB 4 is an important step for city officials to reassure parents sending children to school is safe.
Dallas-Fort Worth is home to the fifth most diverse public university in the country and other campuses that serve students from an array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. SB 4 turns all local law enforcement — including campus police — into a deportation force. Students who don’t want the specter of bigotry hanging overhead will begin choosing more progressive universities outside of Texas, taking their tuition and their talents with them, if our community doesn’t make a swift show that it won’t stand for legalized discrimination.
SB 4 will also make community policing harder by creating an environment of distrust. And trust is very difficult to restore once lost.
City leaders can prevent the emergence of increased racial tensions by sending a message loud and clear in opposition of this legislation. Otherwise, they run the risk of turning Fort Worth’s diversity from one of its greatest assets into its greatest liability.
Cities in Texas — including Fort Worth — have a legal pathway to oppose laws that are unconstitutional and will negatively impact local communities. Doing so may require utilization of some tax payer dollars. But remaining neutral on this litigation is a higher price to pay.
When it comes to SB 4, too much is at stake for a wait-and-see approach.
Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, Kasandra Fernandez, Martha Paola Vasquez and Viridiana Moreno are the founders of United Fort Worth. United Fort Worth is a grassroots, multicultural and nonpartisan coalition that opposes discriminatory legislation and policies.