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MAY 11, 2017

In the state of Texas, as in any state, motorists may find themselves talking with a Texas state trooper about routine traffic issues. You might have been driving at 60 miles per hour in an area with a 55-mile-an-hour limit. You might have inadvertently parked your car in a no-parking zone. Or you might have accidentally driven through a red light. Any one of these minor misdeeds might have caused a state trooper to wave you over to the side of the road.

But did you ever think that such an incident might also lead to a discussion with that trooper as to whether you are an American citizen or an undocumented immigrant?

The Texas Legislature, filled with patriots, has now passed legislation—the SB4 law—suggesting that police officials investigate the immigration status of a person they encounter in the course of a routine traffic stop. Mistakenly missing a red light can lead to your arrest and detention. “Officers," according to one publication read by travel agents, “will hold suspects for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, who will investigate the person’s immigration status." All in the course of a traffic stop!

The American Civil Liberties Union has strongly protested this legislation and will test it in court. The ACLU believes the legislation will lead to widespread racial profiling and illegal arrests of citizens. In a formal statement, the organization says, “The Lone Star State will become a ‘show me your papers state,’ where every interaction with law enforcement can become a citizenship interrogation and potentially an illegal arrest."

Until the courts decide, the ACLU urges that all visitors to Texas should be sensitively aware of this surprising legislation, and should also advise friends and relatives of it. To me, it’s sad that portions of our nation should foster such fear of immigrants and attack the source of so many positive developments in our country. The many immigrants now working in productive jobs should not be hunted down like animals. And traffic stops should not be the occasion for anti-immigrant punishment.