ACLU issues ‘travel alert’ for Texas; Louisiana may be next

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a “travel alert” to anyone traveling to or through Texas in the near future.

Triggered by a Texas law called SB4, the ACLU’s alert warns travelers that their constitutional rights may be violated by law enforcement officials if they are stopped for any reason.

“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement,” ACLU Director of Immigration Policy and Campaigns Lorella Praeli said. “Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump’s draconian deportation force.”

According to the ACLU, SB4 “gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound.”

The travel alert is intended to apply to all law enforcement officers, including federal, state, county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.

“We plan to fight this racist and wrongheaded law in the courts and in the streets. Until we defeat it, everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what’s in store for them,” ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke said. “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.”

In neighboring Louisiana, the legislature is mulling a measure called HB 676 that the ACLU says could result in similar actions by law enforcement and the subsequent issuance of a similar alert.

“In Louisiana we consider ourselves to be welcoming and hospitable,” Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana Marjorie R. Esman said. “We don’t need a law that will force police to engage in racial profiling and target those who they think don’t ‘belong.’”

ACLU chapters in 17 other states from California to Wyoming have issued similar warnings.

“It is simply a matter of time before illegal arrests occur. Local law enforcement will have to decide between violating a person’s rights and being severely fined, thrown in jail, or even being removed from office for choosing not to do so,” Burke said.

Texas’ SB4 is scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2017, but ACLU leaders say they fear law enforcement agencies will begin enforcement much sooner.

“As we advise against travelling to Texas, we must be aware of our obligation to protect everyone in the State of Louisiana,” Esman said.