EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.
Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) is commonly referred to as the “anti-sanctuary city” bill, but the words “sanctuary city” never appear in the bill. Instead, the bill does contain the words “campus police” and clearly demands that campus police departments must provide federal immigration officers enforcement assistance.
Earlier this year, I co-founded “Professors Against SB4” because the words “immigration enforcement” and “college campus” should never appear in the same sentence. This policy would ruin the educational environment for students and teachers.
Students enroll in a Mexican American Literature course to study poetry or prose. They don’t sign up to watch an immigration raid go down. This can be traumatic for students, even if they are documented.
Imagine going to class excited to have read Pat Mora’s poem “Helena” about a mom’s struggles to learn English to provide for her children, and instead of discussing the form and structure and symbolism of the poem, you end up watching a peer pulled out of class, crying and begging someone to inform her kids that she is being taken away.
Are students supposed to simply go back to the lesson plan and forget that happened?
In addition, what are the legal implications for a professor who is asked by officers if a certain student is in class? What if the professor doesn’t answer? What if the professor hasn’t taken attendance? Perhaps professors should never learn students’ names if SB4 goes into effect?
Of course, extremist politicians are going to play off stereotypes about criminals running rampant all over the nation, and I guess, rampant onto college campuses?
Are drug cartel kingpins robbing banks one night, and then the next morning turning in their literary analysis in class? The “bad hombres” are eluding Border Patrol agents—so it’s time to call in the professors?
There are already emergency plans in place for the safety of students. SB4 does nothing to add to that.
I can’t tell you what a sanctuary city exactly looks or acts like (am still waiting for a clear answer from Texas’ extremists), but as a professor, I can tell you what a great campus experience is all about.
And as a private citizen, I can tell you to call your representatives and tell them to vote against Texas Senate Bill 4 because it will poison the education experience for all Texas students, professors and administrators—regardless of their politics.
Some of the bill’s writers had the common decency to realize that SB4 went against the ideals of education enough to curtail it from encroaching on the rights of minors and adding language not include K–12 settings. To attempt to address this, the bill even goes out of its way to say that it does not apply to a school district or an open-enrollment charter school.
However, as any professor at any community college in Texas can tell you, on an any given day, there are thousands of high school students on two-year college campuses taking dual credit courses, which count towards the requirements for both their high school diploma and their associate’s degree. They can graduate high school with both. So, minors in high school will be exposed to the effects of SB4.
SB4 would also impact dual credit, a great experience for high school students. Dual credit is an important base for enrollment for community colleges and a major part of a system’s budget. Yet this is what happens when we allow stereotypes about immigration from states like Kansas shape the policies of actual border states like Texas. Laws are proposed to attack imaginary sanctuary cities, so that real programs like dual credit for high school students will suffer. Administrators have worked years to create programs like this that make students and their families feel welcome and succeed faster.
SB4 would undo all that work.
This bill appeases stereotypes and sabotages the educational experience. It does not clearly say what makes up a sanctuary city, but it does spell out what would make the college experience a living nightmare for everyone.
Stand up against SB4 before it’s too late.
Tony Diaz tweets from @librotraficante.