Media Contact

Matt Levin, ACLU of Texas, [email protected]
Gabby Arias, ACLU, [email protected], 908-230-3166

October 13, 2023

AUSTIN, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas condemn the Texas Senate’s passage of two extremist anti-immigrant bills that would have grave consequences for both U.S. citizens and immigrants. Senate Bill 11 would create a new state crime targeting many asylum-seekers and other immigrants for arrest and prosecution. S.B. 4 would significantly expand the state’s criminal “human smuggling” laws, which already serve as tools for prosecutorial abuse against humanitarian workers, by imposing a mandatory 10-year minimum in most cases

“International and federal law, as well as human decency, compel us to allow people seeking safety to present their claims to federal immigration authorities,” said David Donatti, ACLU of Texas staff attorney. “State criminal laws that threaten migrants with jail time violate the core values and laws of our nation. We should welcome, not criminalize, families and individuals fleeing persecution.”

Senate passage of S.B. 11 and S.B. 4 comes as state lawmakers convened this week for the third special legislative session this year, convened by Governor Greg Abbott. The passage of these bills is the latest attack on migrant and border communities in Texas and follows earlier efforts by Gov. Abbott to endanger migrants in the Rio Grande through Operation Lone Star.

“We’ve seen before that laws like these result in the unlawful racial profiling, arrest, and detention of both U.S. citizens and immigrants,” said Sarah Mehta, ACLU senior border policy counsel. “Gov. Abbott has repeatedly abused the legal system in a relentless campaign against asylum seekers and immigrants in Texas. This dangerous attempt to criminalize immigrants is cruel and comes at a great cost to our communities.”