For Immediate Release: May 27, 2020
Contact: Arianna Rosales, Immigrant Legal Resource Center - media [at] ilrc.org
Jordan Buckley, Mano Amiga - ManoAmigaSM [at] gmail.com
First Cite & Release Ordinance in Texas to Take Effect Sunday in San Marcos
New City Law, the Result of Yearlong Advocacy Efforts, Aims to Reduce Unnecessary Arrests
SAN MARCOS—This Sunday, May 31, the first cite & release ordinance in Texas will take effect in San Marcos. The new law directs the San Marcos Police Department to issue citations for low-level offenses like possession of small quantities of marijuana—the leading arrest charge in Hays County since 2013—and to issue quarterly reports to increase data transparency and ensure compliance with the ordinance.
The city’s policy is based on a state law passed in 2007 which allows officers to issue citations, instead of arrest, for certain petty crimes, including those punishable by fine only, as well as some Class A and B misdemeanors. City Council voted to limit that list of eligible offenses, thereby choosing to exclude some offenses in the state statute. The cite and release ordinance seeks to eliminate discretionary arrests and decrease racial disparities in policing.
In addition to its directive regarding issuing citations, the ordinance calls for regular, public meetings among the Police Chief’s Advisory Panel and community members to work together with the San Marcos Police Department on the development of policies and procedures related to the ordinance. The first progress update and quarterly data report regarding the use of cite and release process is due to City Council on August 31, 2020.
The ordinance, originally authored by Texas-based attorney Anita Gupta of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, is among the first of its kind in the state. After data emerged showing San Marcos police officers issued citations in only 13 percent of eligible instances in 2018 and 23 percent in 2019, and significant racial disparities existed among those arrested, grassroots organization Mano Amiga led a vibrant coalition of local residents in urging the City Council to take immediate action by passing this groundbreaking city law.
Said Anita Gupta, Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
“This ordinance, if properly implemented, will reduce arrests for low-level offenses, which cause harm to community members and families and disproportionately impact people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized populations. Furthermore, amid the COVID-19 pandemic — as we witness the very real and deadly dangers of jails and prisons — keeping community members out of incarceration is more important than ever. While the passage of the ordinance was a huge victory, we recognize the work has only just begun and look forward to working with the police department to ensure equitable and effective implementation.”
Said Eric Martinez, Policy Director for Mano Amiga:
"This victory is chiefly the result of people impacted by the scourge of confinement –– either directly or through the experience of a loved one –– rising together to encourage a better way forward. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with SMPD's Interim Chief Bob Klett in helping San Marcos become a model for the state in how to foster a stronger bond with the community by prioritizing alternatives to jail for minor offenses. We are likewise happy to share lessons from the ordinance's enactment with the many advocates and policymakers who reached out to us from across Texas –– from the Rio Grande Valley to Ft. Worth, from Waco to our neighbors in Kyle –– who have all conveyed interest in pursuing city laws to limit excessive arrests there."
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.
Mano Amiga is a nonprofit that seeks to educate, advocate, and organize alongside and in favor of immigrants and low-income residents in the rural I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin. Alongside writers, visual artists, musicians, and film-makers, we amplify the voices and experiences of people from historically underrepresented communities. With our partners in the big cities, we aim to construct an 80-mile-long zone of resistance to racist, anti-immigrant policies, deep in the heart of Texas.