A Small Town Mayor Takes on Texas Over New Immigration Law

EL CENIZO, Texas — The mayor of a small town in Texas has taken the first shot in a legal battle against a controversial new immigration enforcement law recently signed by the state’s governor.

Raul Reyes, mayor of El Cenizo, is shaping up as the face of the opposition to SB4, Texas’ version of a “papers, please” law. He says this fight is about civil and human rights, saying it’s “a reckless, dangerous, and discriminatory law.”

In some ways Reyes, who is 34, could be any small town mayor, as he points out a local river and worries about litter.

“This is actually a popular fishing spot,” Reyes told NBC Latino on a recent visit. He glanced down at the riverbank, where a few beer cans and a plastic bag had been abandoned, and sighed. “I wish people wouldn’t leave their trash here.”

The river in question is the Rio Grande, which marks the U.S./Mexico border and abuts the western edge of El Cenizo. The city’s location and its involvement in the SB4 lawsuit put it literally and figuratively in the middle of the national debate over sanctuary city laws.

Reyes is the lead plaintiff in the suit against Texas, brought in conjunction with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The legal challenge alleges that SB4 — which goes into effect September 1 — is coercive and unconstitutional.

SB 4 allows local law enforcement officials to question anyone who they detain about their immigration status. The law would force local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration detainer requests, and carries penalties for non-compliance, including fines, jail time, and potential removal from office.

“This bill will help keep dangerous criminals off our streets and protect innocent lives,” said a spokesman for Governor Abbott in a statement. “For every ounce of criticism, there is a pound of praise from Texans who simply want laws to keep them safe.”

By Raul A. Reyes for NBC News
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