By Steve Taylor, Originally Published by The Rio Grande Guardian
BROWNSVILLE, RGV – A Rio Grande Valley priest and Valley Interfaith leader says a bill to outlaw sanctuary cities will misfire, by making communities less safe and empowering drug cartels and vigilantes
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene’s de Mazenod Catholic Church in Brownsville, said immigrant communities will lose trust in local law enforcement if police officers are deputized as de-facto ICE agents.
“If you cannot trust the police, who do you turn to? You are going to turn to a cartel or something like that. You are going to turn to organized crime. People are going to say, who is going to protect me if they (police officers) won’t?” Collins said.
Traditionally, police officers do not ask the immigration status of a person they pull over for speeding or having defective lights on their car. However, that could change under Senate Bill 4, legislation authored by state Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock. The legislation has been made a priority by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Perry’s bill would bill require local police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration laws. It would also punish local municipalities who do not work with federal immigration officials.
Collins said he can see many unintended consequences if SB 4 becomes law. “Communities will not trust the police. There could be more extortion. What are you going to do about it? You cannot go to the police,” Collins said, explaining his fear that organized crime will become more powerful if community policing is diminished.
Collins’ remarks echo that of many police chiefs. In previous legislative sessions, many police chiefs and sheriffs have testified that they do not want their officers or deputies having to double up as ICE agents. They say it weakens community policing because undocumented immigrants will not come forward when they see a crime being committed, for fear of deportation.
Before becoming a priest in Brownsville, Collins held a similar post in the east end of Houston. His congregation included a large number of immigrants, many from Central America. “In Houston, the local police department worked so hard to build up trust in the community,” Collins said.