SENATE GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO SANCTUARY CITIES BAN
(AUSTIN) — The Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require cities to comply with federal immigration law and outlaw the practice of sanctuary cities. This term is commonly applied to local jurisdictions that have policies precluding officers from inquiring into the citizenship status of arrested persons or complying with federal immigration authorities' requests for custody transfer. Bill author Senator Charles Perry framed the issue as one of rule of law rather than immigration. "My majority of citizens, immigrants or non, illegal or undocumented, all want a system of law that is applied blindly and without prejudice for all involved," he said before the final vote.
The bill passed an initial vote Tuesday evening, after 39 amendments were offered. Only a handful made it on the bill, and one of those would make it a crime to ignore the sanctuary city ban. This is in addition to civil penalties included in the bill itself, which would permit the state to withhold certain funds from municipalities that violate the proposed law. The criminal penalty would only apply to the leadership of a jurisdiction, say a sheriff or a police chief, not the officers or employees subordinate to him or her. The amendment would permit the attorney general to charge them with a class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.
Several members rose to speak in opposition to the measure. They raised concerns about the constitutionality of the measure and worried it could drive a wedge between law enforcement and the community. "It signals to many in our immigrant community that they are not welcome in Texas," said San Antonio Senator Carlos Uresti. "That they should fear that any slip up or mistake will result in their deportation and that law enforcement exists not to protect them, but to get rid of them."
Perry maintains that fears among the immigrant community relating to this proposed law won't come to pass. "There's nobody on this that would ever want to deny an individual for opportunity, or refuge, or safety or any of those other things," he said. During debate last night, he told colleagues that the bill is aimed at undocumented immigrants who commit crimes here, and today he asked members to help him allay fears among the immigrant community in Texas.
The bill passed 20-10 and will now head to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 13 at 2 p.m.