Sharlene Sharmila Richards

Q: What is Texas SB4? How it will affect residents of Texas?
A: Texas has passed a law designed to ban sanctuary city policies. The law known as Senate Bill 4 (SB4) was passed on May 7th, 2017 and will go into effect on September 1st, 2017. SB4 permits law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of individuals who are arrested or detained. It also requires law enforcement agencies having custody of the individual to comply with any federal immigration detainers to cooperate to hand over those individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Q: Under SB4, do I need to be arrested first before the police can question me and ask me for my immigration status? I am a US Citizen and my wife is an H-1B visa holder. If we are stopped how do we show our immigration status? Do I have to carry my US Passport everywhere? Does my wife have to carry her H-1B approval notices with her? Do we have to carry our Marriage Certificate too?
A: The law is designed to allow local law enforcement officers to request the immigration status of not just who have been arrested and in police custody but of all persons who have been detained which in theory encompasses those who have been stopped for simple offences like jaywalking. As a US Citizen, you need not carry your US Passport everywhere. You wife who has H-1B status also need not carry her H-1B approval notices everywhere. If you have been stopped, first and foremost, you have the right to remain silent and to not answer any questions. You may ask whether you are free to leave and if the officer says, yes, you may leave the scene. However, if you are detained and not free to leave, you must identify yourself and tell the officer your name, address and your date of birth because it is a crime to refuse to answer or to lie about your identity. For this, you just need to present your valid Texas Driver License. If the police require that you show proof of your registration and car insurance, you must also show it to them to avoid getting a citation or getting arrested.
Q: I am undocumented and my Driver License expired many years ago. What do I have to do to prevent being arrested while driving? Can the police search my car as well?
A: I advise that you minimize the risk of being stopped by the police while driving. Ensure that you do not break the law like speeding, beating the red light etc. and make sure your car is in good working order. The police can only stop someone if there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed or has been committed. If you still end up being stopped and detained, be aware that it is a criminal offence to decline to give your name, address and date of birth. If your Driver License has expired, it is advisable to have another form of photo identification at least such as a Passport or other legal forms of photo identification. It is important to remember that it is in the discretion of the officer at the time to proceed to ask about your immigration status, so it is best that you try to cooperate with the police in any way possible to avoid any questioning about your immigration status. Know your rights about remaining silent and when the police can and cannot search your car. You can say no to the police request to search your car but note that if they believe your car has evidence of criminal activity, they may search it without your consent.
Q: What do I do if questioned about my immigration status by local police or campus police?
A: It is important to note under SB4, police officers including university or campus police can ask you about your immigration status if detained or arrested. You still have the right to remain silent. But if you valid status such H-1B, F-1 student, tourist etc. you must disclose your immigration status only if asked by federal immigration officers. Local police and campus police are not federal immigration officers. It is also important to not misrepresent that you are a US Citizen if you are not or provide false information about your immigration status.
Q: I heard that under SB4, victims of crime and witnesses have to also be careful about reporting or witnessing crimes if they have no papers.
A: Yes, that is correct. Under SB4, the police can inquire into the immigration status of victims of crime and witnesses alike if the officer determines that it is necessary to conduct further investigation of the crime.Disclaimer: Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case.
My Bio
Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. You may contact her at telephone number 713-623-8088 or by email at srichardslaw@aol.com to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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