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Texas could be headed for a big lawsuit over new immigration law

  • Texas Governor Gregg Abbott just signed SB4 into law, which would give law enforcement authorization to inquire about a person's immigration status during all detentions, including traffic stops.
  • SB4 is essentially a "show me your papers" law that is set to create an environment for racial profiling.
  • Arizona passed a similar law in 2010 and faced a severe backlash, including millions in lost revenue from conventions and a massive lawsuit that the state ultimately lost.
Woman receiving speeding ticket from police officer
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In 2001, Texas became the first state to allow undocumented students to attend college, pay in-state tuition, and receive state financial aid. I grew up undocumented in Texas and House Bill 1403 changed my life. I went on to receive the prestigious Texas for Women Scholarship from then Texas Governor Rick Perry and graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin (UT). I love Texas, from the blue bonnets, Houston Rodeo, and San Antonio Spurs to Friday night lights and the Texas Longhorns.

I left Texas in 2005 when I moved to New York City, but my sister and my nephews still call Texas home. My brother will be graduating in a few weeks from Texas Tech University, and he never wants to leave Texas. I go back to Texas at least once a year for the Red River Rivalry between UT and Oklahoma. Texas is unlike any other place I have ever lived; once a Texan, always a Texan.

But I am worried for Texas. Recently, Governor Gregg Abbott signed SB4 into law. SB4, a far cry from the law that afforded me the opportunity to thrive in this country, will give law enforcement authorization to inquire about a person's immigration status during all detentions, including traffic stops.

"SB4 is essentially a 'show me your papers' law that is set to create an environment for racial profiling"

Texas Democrats tried to introduce a provision that would exclude children from the law, but it did not pass. SB4 makes it illegal for local government and law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with detainer requests, assigning penalties as high as $25,000 and removal from public office.

SB4 is essentially a "show me your papers" law that is set to create an environment for racial profiling in a state where 10.4 million Hispanic Americans live. The law mirrors Arizona's controversial SB1070, which was passed in 2010.

The backlash in Arizona was severe. The ACLU reports that Arizona lost $141 million from canceled conventions in the year following the passing of SB1070. Additionally, the effect from the lost revenues resulted in $250 million in lost economic output, and almost $10 million in lost tax revenue.

Immediately following the passing of SB1070, a coalition of civil rights organizations including the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed a lawsuit against Arizona. In September 2016, Arizona settled the lawsuit and paid $1.4 million in attorney's fees to the organizations and announced that it would no longer require police officers to inquire about a person's immigration status. This is where Texas is headed — millions of dollars lost in revenues from tourism and conventions, millions of taxpayer's dollars wasted in legal battles, and ultimately this racial profiling law will not prevail.

Governor Gregg Abbott needs to look deep into the heart of Texas and recognize the ripple effect he is creating with the passing of this racial profiling law. In the 1990s, Proposition 187 made its way through California. The measure required law enforcement, education and health officials to inquire about a person's immigration status. The law was never enacted after a judge halted the measure. The effect took time, but the political implications were lasting. In 1994, Republicans held half of California's 52 seats in the U.S. House; today, they hold 14 seats.

I believe the Texas that led the country in giving undocumented students an opportunity at higher education, my home state, is the state that will ultimately prevail. Just like Prop187 in California, SB4 might just be the tipping point in Texas.

As Manny Fernandez said in his New York Times essay, "Texas [is] forever, and Republican Texas is [a kind] of temporary occupation."

Commentary by Julissa Arce is author of the book, "My (Underground) American Dream." Arce made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status working her way up to vice president at Goldman Sachs by age 27 while being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She currently works with the Ascend Educational Fund, a scholarship program for immigrant students in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @julissaarce.

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Watch: Trump signs executive order on immigration