The State of Texas has moved a step closer to banning so-called “sanctuary” cities within its borders with the passage of legislation that would also subject city police chiefs and county sheriffs to jail time and the loss of their job if they fail to comply with federal immigration law.
The state’s House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would allow state funding from local governmental units that do not fully comply with federal law, which mirrors language approved by the state Senate earlier in the month, but the House version of the bill contained the provisions regarding law enforcement officials.
The differences in the two versions will be now be considered in a conference committee to reconcile the language before a final vote could send the bill to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his certain approval and signature.
The House vote came after a 16-hour debate as state Democrats, lacking sufficient number to block passage, vowed to make passage of the law and order bill as difficult and time-consuming as possible.
The legislation was introduced amid a national debate about the right of localities to ignore federal immigration law to serve as sanctuaries to harbor illegal immigrants, including those convicted of felonies, from detention by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials.
President Trump’s Executive Order withholding federal funding to such localities was enjoined by a federal district judge in California, the third time an attempt to beef up law enforcement was thwarted by the liberal Ninth Circuit.
The Texas legislation that would mirror Trump’s Executive Order was introduced as Gov. Abbott and Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez had announced a countywide policy of refusing to honor ICE detention requests absent a court order or in the case of major felonies.
Travis County is home to the state capital, Austin, a liberal stronghold in the center of a red border state dealing with significant immigration issues.
Abbott and Hernandez skirmished over the policy with the governor cutting off state funding to the county and the sheriff eventually agreeing to adhere to the new law – if it comes out of the conference committee and is signed.
Opponents argue that the law is nothing more than a “show me your papers” effort to intimidate Hispanics and claim it will make all immigrants, legal and illegal, from contacting police to report a crime.
Supporters, however, cite the need to enforce immigration law as a way of keeping everyone in the state – including immigrants, safe.
If the conference committee is able to agree on a single version of the bill that incorporates the House’s broader scope that allows law enforcement officers to make “status inquiries” even on traffic stops, with the Senate’s more restrictive requirement that they take place only following arrest, the legislation is assured of Gov. Abbott’s signature.
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