Fort Worth City Councilman Carlos Flores (District 2) has questioned whether Fort Worth should join Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio in a legal challenge to Senate Bill 4, the state immigration law that goes into effect next month.
City leaders have been dancing around the issue and have not taken a formal vote on the matter.
Flores has officially asked the City Council to do exactly that on Tuesday.
Indecision by government leaders can be equally harmful as a poor decision.
Still, we know this decision will be a difficult one.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board has been clear about its opposition to SB 4 from the beginning. We have also been clear that while the law has problems, so does the lawsuit.
SB 4’s so-called “sanctuary city” nomenclature suggests it is a statute designed solely to ban cities and counties from implementing policies that thwart and undermine federal immigration laws.
Fort Worth is not and has never been one of those cities. We are not San Francisco. We are not Austin. We recognize that local and state cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies is essential to the safety of all people who call our state home.
But legislators went further than merely outlawing sanctuary cities in SB4 — they have essentially outlawed opposition to the statute, making any public entity or official who so much as endorses a policy that contradicts SB 4 subject to inordinate fines and even a criminal offense.
The law empowers local police with authorities that should be reserved for federal immigration officials, allowing them to inquire about immigration status during lawful detentions. But the law fails to detail exactly how citizenship or lawful residency can be proven by, for example, a Dreamer student who possesses a driver’s license but not a green card.
That leaves too much control in the hands of local cops, too much ambiguity and room for abuse.
While the law specifically prohibits discrimination, it does not put enough safeguards in place to prevent profiling or outline consequences for misuse. Ultimately, this threatens the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they protect, making their jobs more difficult and Texans less safe.
For these reasons, the law is unacceptable.
We suspect a court of law will agree and SB 4 will not stand as it is.
The question of whether Fort Worth should help hasten the law’s collapse by joining the lawsuit is less clear; it will mean committing some of the city’s limited resources to a controversial legal challenge. But it is also the strongest statement the city can make in opposition to the bill.
In his proposition to the City Council, Flores argues that SB 4 “unlawfully limits the authority of home-rule cities to effectively manage and direct their limited public safety resources.”
He’s right. Can Fort Worth afford to stand on the sidelines? We think not.
Tell the City Council what you think by showing up Tuesday night.