Hidalgo County authorities hold Senate Bill 4 press conference

Local law enforcement agencies held a press conference on Thursday to clarify Senate Bill 4 protocol.

Local law enforcement said there is a certain amount of fear among some Rio Grande Valley residents after Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law on Sunday evening.

Local police chiefs and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on Thursday to send a unified message to residents that they are here to serve the community, regardless of someone’s status in the country.

"We are not immigration officers,” said Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra. “We are not going to be deporting anybody. We do not have the authority to deport anybody, and we do not have the authority to determine whether the person is here illegally."

Lawful detention was the key word reiterated during the press conference, referencing the bill which requires lawful detention before any law enforcement agency inquires about someone’s legal status.

"The requirements we must meet in order for us to detain anybody--we must have reason to believe that probable cause before that detention is lawful” said McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.

Law enforcement agencies at the press conference stated that normal protocol will remain the same, and reiterated that they cannot plainly ask about someone’s legal status.

"Senate Bill 4 also addresses and prohibits discrimination against any person,” said Guerra. “I also want to make it clear that any law enforcement officer, regardless of the agency that they work for, who is found to be discriminating persons based on their nationality or race will face serious consequences."

Guerra added that under certain circumstances, like if someone makes a service call, or is questioned as a witness, law enforcement still doesn't have the right to ask about someone’s legal status.

"SB 4 doesn't change the way we work,” Rodriguez said. “One of the biggest questions I’ve been getting is, ‘How does this change you?' It doesn't. It doesn't impact us operationally."

Guerra said his office is planning to hold town halls, so the community can voice their concerns regarding Senate Bill 4.

Senate Bill 4 will take effect on Sept. 1.

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