By Paul J. Weber
AUSTIN, TEXAS — What to know about a Texas bill targeting so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ that is heading to the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has pledged to sign the measure that immigrant-rights activists say will lead to profiling and discrimination.
Comparison with Arizon’a Law
Opponents blast the Texas bill as a version of Arizona’s immigration crackdown law, SB 1070, which launched protests, lawsuits and national controversy in 2010.
But the Texas and Arizona bills are not identical. Whereas the Arizona law required police to try to determine the immigration status of people during routine stops, the Texas bill doesn’t instruct officers to ask. But it does allow Texas police to inquire whether a person is in the country legally, even if they’re not under arrest.
Courts blocked other portions of Arizona’s law, including one that made it a crime not to carry immigrations documents, which were never proposed under the Texas bill.
Police Chiefs, Sheriffs Could Be Jailed
Police chiefs and sheriffs could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor — which carries possible jail time — if they fail to honor a jail detainer request from federal immigration agents. What’s more, not honoring a request would qualify as an official misconduct charge, which adds the threat of removal from office if a police chief or sheriff is convicted for not complying.
The state could also fine local governments $25,000 if they don’t comply.
Enforcement of the law would also extend to college campuses. One of the few carve-outs Republicans allowed during marathon and divisive debates in the Texas Capitol was exempting churches.
A Priority for the Governor
Abbott, who as attorney general in 2010 signed onto court briefs supporting Arizona’s law, is now on the verge of making sanctuary cities the defining issue of his first term as governor.
He has already blocked more than $1 million in state grant dollars to Travis County, home of liberal Austin, after the new Democratic sheriff announced in January her jails would no longer honor all detainer requesters made by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.
On Thursday, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said in a statement that it was “unfortunate that fear and misinformation enabled” the bill to pass. She said she has always followed the law “and that will not change.”
Abbott declared a sanctuary city ban a legislative priority — just as his predecessor, former Gov. Rick Perry, did in 2011 but couldn’t pass. The Texas Legislature’s increasing drift to the right has eroded past resistance by moderate Republicans. Abbott is likely to sign the bill even before the Legislature adjourns later this month.
“I’m getting my signing pen warmed up,” he tweeted after Wednesday’s vote.
Pushback From Big City Police
The police chiefs of Texas’ five biggest cities, which includes Dallas and Houston, oppose the bill from the start. They said the bill will push immigrant families further into the shadows and deter them from coming forward to cooperate as witnesses or report crimes, including when they’re the victim.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.