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Valley Woman, Immigration Attorney Weigh In on 'Sanctuary' Bill

3 years 6 months 3 weeks ago Monday, May 08 2017 May 8, 2017 May 08, 2017 9:06 PM May 08, 2017 in News

WESLACO – Concerns over how the new sanctuary bill will impact the Rio Grande Valley immigrant community are arising.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Texas Senate Bill 4 on Sunday.

The law will allow police to ask whether someone is in the U.S. legally during routine stops. Local law enforcement can also face consequences if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration agencies.

Tania Chavez, who lives in the U.S. illegally, said she’s always lived on the edge. She’s doesn’t have a Texas driver’s licenses, an identification card or a visa.

“I do not count with the proper documentation to be able to drive a vehicle in the United States,” she said.

Chavez said even though she lacks status she needs a vehicle to get to work.

“I try not to commit any traffic violations and in the event that doing so, I know my rights,” she said. “If you get pulled over because of a traffic violation and they want to ask about your immigration status, they can do so.”

The bill states law enforcement is not required to ask about a person’s status if they have proof of residency like a Texas driver’s license or a government-issued identification.

If someone reports a crime to police, they can also be subjected to the same interrogation.

The bill outlines an officer is allowed to ask someone their nationality and immigration status if they are a witness or a victim. This applies only if it’s necessary to investigate the offense or provide federal visas to protect the persons after helping law enforcement.

The law also states it does not prevent authorities from conducting a separate investigation if they have probable cause.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to immigration attorney Lionel Perez.

“There’s no way in my mind that you can force somebody to answer ‘Where were you born?’, unless it’s a port of entry where you come into the United States or at a check point, which is the equivalent of a port of entry,” he said.

Perez said people are still protected by the U.S. Constitution and they do not have to answer.

“There’s got to be reasonable cause,” he said.

The bill also gives provision for the officer to make a decision about reasonable cause.

The sanctuary city bill is expected to go into effect September 1.

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