In May 2017, we began receiving e-mails from readers asking if it was true that the American Civil Liberties Union had issued a travel warning or alert for the state of Texas:
Saw this on facebook. Did the ACLU really post a travel warning about traveling through Texas?
Out of context, the claim sounds potentially like fake news. But it is easily verified via the ACLU's social media accounts, where posts reference the warning:
Since the passage of SB4, we must issue a travel advisory to anyone planning to travel to Texas. What you need to know and what you can do. pic.twitter.com/pl8Zzaz5K8
— ACLU National (@ACLU) May 9, 2017
The ACLU linked to 9 May 2017 Quartz item, which reported the 7 May 2017 passage of a law enabling police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detained, even those who have been stopped for minor traffic violations:
SB4, as the law is known, also requires local law-enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities who request they detain people suspected of being in the US illegally.
The ACLU notice mimics the travel advisories published by the US State Department, designed to warn or alert Americans of potential dangers in foreign countries. The ACLU has only used this tactic once before, warning people about traveling to Arizona in 2010, after the state passed an even harsher provision, requiring officers to ask for immigration documents. The law resulted in a six-year legal battle eventually resolved in 2016, and hit the state with costs of boycotts and lost business.
Before the ACLU issued a national alert, its Texas branch published a blog post explaining why it opposes the law:
... SB4 will turn [Texas] into a “show me your papers” state, where any encounter with local law enforcement can turn into a citizenship interrogation. It will encourage local police without a single minute of immigration enforcement training on their resumes to profile skin tones and accents and languages. Mandatory detainers will clog our jails. The border checkpoint will be everywhere.
... SB4 will drive witnesses and victims of crime into the shadows. Fearing deportation, survivors of domestic violence and rape will let their abusers walk free. Knowing this, sheriffs from Travis, Dallas, Harris, Bexar and El Paso Counties, along with police chiefs from Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth and San Antonio begged the legislature not to pass this awful law. But the experience and informed opinions of Texas’s law enforcement leaders carried no weight with Governor Abbott and his warmed-up pen.
SB4 is scheduled to be implemented in Texas on 1 September 2017.