SB4 in Texas Will Separate Immigrant Families — Why Women in Texas Fear New Law
Imagine a situation where every moment you spend with your kids and your family could be your last, and that you must think about what will happen to them when you’re gone. You don’t know when will that happen but you know it could be at any time. What would you do? How would you plan for it?
That is exactly what immigrant moms in Texas are going through as you read this. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott just signed a new law that allows local police to ask for the immigration papers of anyone they think seems undocumented. It is the most anti-immigrant law we’ve seen in years, similar to Arizona’s State Bill 1070 that caused economic and social chaos back in 2010.
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I moved to Texas from Guatemala 26 years ago seeking a better future for my first daughter, and since then, our family has grown in number and dreams. My daughter is 28 years old now and supports her 11-year-old son thanks to the temporary work permit she received through Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young immigrants like her. My other daughter is 23 years old and was born in the United States. I am proud and thankful for my job as a domestic worker because it allowed me to provide my family with a home, food, and education.
Through all these years, I’ve had no way to change my immigration status. During my first years in this country, I endured domestic violence and was too afraid to learn about my rights and get help. Finally, this year, I have the chance to become a permanent resident thanks to my youngest daughter, who is able to sponsor me as a U.S. citizen. But due to all of the hateful rhetoric against immigrants like me, as well as the new Texas law, I could be separated from my family even before I embrace the only chance I’ve had in decades to live without fear and to have a piece of paper that says I belong in this country.
The new Texas law means that if a police officer stops me and suspects I’m undocumented because of my skin color, the clothing I wear, my appearance, or accent, the officer will have the right to ask for my immigration papers. When this law goes into effect Sept. 1, I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive safely to work or to pick up my grandson from school because the chances of being stopped and possibly arrested will be much higher than what they are now.
What will happen to women who are in situations of domestic violence or sexual abuse? Or to survivors of human trafficking? From my experience, I know that calling the police is scary when you are undocumented, but, sometimes, it can be our only hope to stay alive and keep our children safe. With this new law, which essentially legalizes racial profiling, women survivors like me will fear seeking help even more, because now police officers will be permitted to ask for my immigration papers.
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Even if you are a U.S. citizen or a green-card holder, anyone who looks like an immigrant or speaks a language other than English will not be safe because police officers will have the right to interrogate them.
I have joined with other women in Texas to educate our community, prepare for a boycott, and continue to challenge this discriminatory policy. But this is not just about the state of Texas. This new law is a real threat that could spread throughout the country if we don’t stop it now.
I urge every woman and every mother in this country to pay attention to what is happening in Texas, support our efforts to shame the bad politicians that passed this hateful law, and be vigilant of similar laws that could come to your states. The whole country needs to hear that women everywhere will not accept laws that separate families.
Julia is a domestic worker, undocumented mother, and leader in the We Belong Together campaign living in Houston, Texas.
*Julia is being identified by only her first name due to her safety concerns.