Attn: The Honorable Dade Phelan and members of the State Affairs Committee
Austin, TX 78711
RE: House Bill 652 86(R)
Dear Chairman Dade Phelan and members of the State Affairs Committee,
As members of progressive organizations across the state who work with and advocate for survivors of domestic abuse, women, immigrants, and LGBTQ Texans, we urge you to pass House Bill 652 through your committee. We believe and are committed to creating a Texas where everyone, especially women of color, LGBTQ folks, and immigrants can thrive and live a life free of violence without fear of deportation and mass incarceration machine. We will continue to work towards the repeal of Senate Bill 4 in its entirety. As we strive to ensure we are living with safety and dignity everyday of our lives, House Bill 652 would chip away at the current damage of Senate Bill 4. As the Chair of State Affairs, we urge you to listen to Texans across the state.
Senate Bill 4 emboldened law enforcement to racially profile Black and brown Texans, harming Texans, citizens and undocumented immigrants, along the way. ICE and CBP routinely harass and have wrongfully detained citizens, separated mixed status families, and caused trauma across the state. These agencies do not exist in silos, and the violence and trauma they inflict on people is not limited to the undocumented community.
Since Senate Bill 4 became law, our communities have been living in a hyperstate of anxiety and intimidation as we’ve witnessed members of our community being racially profiled and deported by local law enforcement agencies. This is an especially dire predicament for those currently in situations of intimate partner violence. Allowing domestic shelters to be an exemption from SB4 enforcement would let those seeking assistance have a better sense of security that local law enforcement would not be collaborating with immigration agents at domestic violence shelters. House Bill 652 increases the safety of our communities by encouraging immigrant survivors to reach out to obtain life saving resources and safety at a domestic violence shelter.
In addition, since Senate Bill 4 became law, The SAFE Alliance in Austin, Texas as well as shelters and hotlines across the state has seen a worrisome drop in calls from Spanish-speaking clients to their domestic violence and rape emergency hotlines. Immigrants have reported an increase in fear and hopelessness in finding supportive resources. Domestic violence shelters report that there has been a drop in the number of non-English speakers who are reaching out for counseling, shelter and other resources. Oftentimes, abusers use their victim’s status as a means to threaten and manipulate them. Citizen and legal permanent resident spouses often fail to file necessary immigration paperwork for their undocumented spouses, causing abused spouses to live in fear that calling domestic violence shelters for help will lead to their arrest and deportation. Abusers manipulate victims immigration status to exert power and control over their victims to continue the abuse.
For example, a woman came to SAFE because she is being physically and sexually abused by her partner. She attended a group counseling session, which was of great value to her. But, because of her fear surrounding her immigration status, she will not report the abuse, nor leave the abuser – and she has stopped attending counseling due to her fear of deportation.
We must take measures that assist undocumented survivors in finding a safe place to seek refuge, and we must encourage more survivors to find safety without fear of deportation. The first step in accomplishing this goal is to pass House Bill 652 through your committee. House Bill 652 creates a legal structure that permits domestic violence shelters to abide by their core values to protect and give safety to all survivors of violence, regardless of the survivor’s immigration status. By allowing collaboration between ICE agents and law enforcement in domestic violence shelters, the state of Texas is supporting the domestic violence cycle and sending undocumented survivors of abuse on a long and cruel journey through the deportation pipeline.
Domestic violence shelters need to be safe havens for EVERYONE, regardless of immigration status. House Bill 652 will help ensure immigrant victims of violence that they are able to safely obtain critical resources at domestic violence shelters without the fear of deportation. We urge you to push this bill forward.
Thank you for your consideration,
United We Dream Texas
Deeds Not Words
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault
Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
ACLU of Texas
Workers Defense Fund Action
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Texas
Texas Freedom Network
The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity
Border Network for Human Rights
Education Not Deportation [END]
Center for Public Policy Priorities
Texas Civil Rights Project
MOVE Texas Action Fund
Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative
La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
Transgender Education Network of Texas