Speed Reads

Sanctuary Cities

Texas passes bill attacking sanctuary cities, allowing police to demand immigration status

On Wednesday evening, the Texas Senate gave final approval for Senate Bill 4, legislation aimed at so-called sanctuary cities, sending the controversial bill to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who said Wednesday night he's "getting my signing pen warmed up." It was a 21-10 party-line vote.

SB 4 would levy steep fines on local governments and public universities that restrict local law enforcement agencies from honoring federal immigration-status "detainer" requests for people in custody, create criminal charges for local law enforcement chiefs who don't comply with detainer requests, and allow Abbott to remove locally elected and appointed officials who violate the ban. In an amendment added by the House, the bill would also allow law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of anybody they detain.

Proponents of the measure, including Abbott and its sponsor, Sen. Charles Perry (R), argue that it is necessary to maintain law and order. Perry dismissed concerns that his legislation had become an Arizona-type "show me your papers" bill, pointing out that it wouldn't require police to request immigration status. "I have friends, Hispanics, who talk to me regularly," he said. "Some of them are like, 'It's a great law.'" Many state law enforcement agencies don't agree — the Texas Police Chiefs Association and the sheriffs of major counties such as Dallas, Travis (Austin), Harris (Houston), and El Paso opposed the bill, arguing it would increase distrust of their officers, making policing harder.

Democrats said they would challenge the law in court. Houston Democrat Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) said the immigration requests in particular would allow police to stop people for simply "walking while brown." "It doesn't matter how much the supporters of this bill promise that this will not happen," she said. "It will happen, and in some parts of my home district it already is happening."