GRAND PRAIRIE - Police departments across North Texas are trying to ease concerns over Senate Bill 4, which bans sanctuary cities in our Texas.
Multiple departments are ramping up community outreach efforts ahead of September 1, when the new law goes into effect.
Officers from more than a dozen departments, as well as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, met at the Grand Prairie Police Department Thursday for a discussion on educating the Spanish-speaking community about the new law, through a growing program called "Unidos." Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye founded the program in 2002.
Under SB 4, police departments can't stop an officer from asking about immigration status if a person is already detained or arrested. That could mean even a simple traffic stop.
"While we can't prohibit officers [from asking about immigration status], they need eyes and ears in the community," said Dye. "Over half the people in my community are Hispanic. Some of my residents are here illegally. We still want to provide a high level of service."
Under the law, police officers cannot ask victims or witnesses about their immigration status, but there are some exceptions: if an officer believes it's necessary for the investigation or they want to provide that person with information about certain federal visa programs.
SB4 does not apply to officers in schools.
"I did not favor this law," said Dye. "I thought we were doing a good job with our federal partners already. We have to be smart about our resources."
Dye said it has already damaged hard-earned trust between police and the community, and that's why he wants to make sure people have the facts about the new law. One of the most common misconceptions, he said, is that police will be able to ask anyone for their immigration status at will. That is not the case, he said.
Police departments across North Texas will hold community meetings about SB 4 in the coming weeks.
They say the bottom line is that victims should not be afraid to call police, regardless of their immigration status.