In two weeks, the controversial Texas Senate Bill 4 becomes law. The law allows police to ask about immigration status under certain circumstances.
Grand Prairie police are working to educate the immigrant community about what it means to them. The department is passing out cards that aim to calm immigrants’ fears and emphasize that it is still safe for an illegal immigrant to call police to report crimes they witness or are victims of.
Adriana Tejada is the owner of La Tapatia Bakery in Grand Prairie. Her father opened it in 1975. Ever since, the bakery has kept a pulse of the immigrant community.
“One of the first Hispanic businesses in Grand Prairie — we've held on despite economic crisis,” Tejada said. “But what has us concerned is Senate Bill 4."
Tejada says some customers are so concerned that they are moving to other states. One of them said they’re moving to Chicago.
"She would rather risk the violence of Chicago than the persecution of immigration,” Tejada said.
Tejada believes Spanish media is fueling their fears.
“I watch both types of newscasts,” she said. “And a lot of it is, ‘Don't go out. This immigration is going to get you. Don't go out. This law is anti-Mexican.’”
Through a meeting with police and the media, Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye hopes to clear up the misunderstandings.
“There are still a lot of people in our immigrant community who believe that Grand Prairie Police officers can arbitrarily at will stop them to question them as to their immigration status,” he said.
Chief Dye says that would be racial profiling, which is still against the law. But the new law does give officers the right to ask about immigration status from anyone arrested or even pulled over for a traffic violation.
Chief Dye admits the law is making immigrants distrustful of police.
“It’s already created damage,” he said. “Now, we are trying to mitigate that damage."
But the chief emphasized that his officers don't seem that interested in being immigration cops.
"The officers have that right, but that will be an additional task they have to perform,” he explained. “And they don't have a lot of time."
It is important to emphasize that the law prohibits officers from asking about the immigration status of a victim of a crime unless it is necessary to investigate the crime or provide the person with information about visa programs.