The State law the Texas Legislature passed this year about so-called sanctuary cities doesn't go into effect until September 1st, but a Houston immigration activist says personnel from the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is already asking about immigration status.
Víctor Ibarra is from Mexico and has lived in Houston for about 20 years.
He is an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform through an organization called Community of Defense for All Immigrants.
Ibarra says an incident he had on Tuesday, June 20th, illustrates what could happen because of SB4, as the law is commonly known due to the number it was assigned in the Texas Senate during the 85th Regular Session and which allows officers from local law enforcement agencies to inquire about immigration status.
Ibarra was involved in a traffic accident that occurred at Veterans Memorial Drive and says that, after confirming Ibarra didn't have a valid Texas driver's license nor proof of insurance, an HCSO's deputy asked him about his immigration status during the interaction they had to prepare the report about the accident.
"I’m sure it’s gonna happen again like me and worse. So, right now it’s not effective yet but it’s happening," Ibarra stressed referring to SB4 during a press conference held at the entrance to Houston's City Hall.
"It’s gonna happen when SB4 becomes effective on September First, that’s for sure," added Ibarra, who was accompanied by David Michael Smith, an organizer with the Houston Socialist Movement.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office, which doesn’t have a policy for asking about immigration status but has one prohibiting racial profiling, has started an internal investigation.
"I’m not gonna speculate on what, what might happen, but what I can tell you definitively is that this will be investigated thoroughly and that it’s being taken seriously," HCSO's spokesman Jason Spencer told Houston Public Media.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced it is joining Texas in defending SB4 arguing that the law is constitutional.