How Will San Antonio Policing Change Under Texas' New "Show Me Your Papers" Law?

click to enlarge Chief McManus is not pleased. - Alex Zielinski
Alex Zielinski
Chief McManus is not pleased.
After months of Texas' top police chiefs warning Gov. Greg Abbott that the state's "show me your papers" bill will only endanger public safety — Abbott merrily signed the bill into law Sunday night. Unsurprisingly, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is not pleased.

"There's nothing positive that this bill does in the community or in law enforcement," said McManus at a Monday morning press conference. "Austin didn't seem to want to listen to its law enforcement leaders across the state. And that, to me, is troubling."

McManus eviscerated the law, previously known as Senate Bill 4, that would extend the reach of federal immigration enforcement to local police departments. Like he's said in the past, McManus stressed that the law will undoubtedly push community members into the shadows, fearful of any encounter with the police on the off chance an officer will ask for their immigration papers — even if they're just trying to report a crime.

While the law doesn't mandate officers ask everyone they detain if they're a legal citizen, it does come with heavy penalties for any police official that explicitly tells officers not to ask. That means SAPD's current rule prohibiting officers from asking about a person's immigration status will have to come off the books, McManus said. The law will also force SAPD to come up with a training on federal immigration law for cadets and the nearly 2,400 SAPD officers already on staff.

The chief has yet to map out that new curriculum — or the price tag that'll come with it. The office may have to hire an instructor or ask federal officials to lead trainings. The biggest cost, McManus said, will be the time lost having to train local police on federal laws.

"This is a federal problem, not a local law enforcement problem. We have enough to do on our own without worrying about people's immigration status," he said. It's especially frusterating, he added, because the added work doesn't go both ways.

"And, you know, I haven't said this before because I didn't want to come across as a wise guy, but I don't think we're going to see the feds helping us with our calls to service," McManus said. "They're not going to be jumping in cars with police officers assisting because one of our other officers may be tied up on an immigration matter."
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