Texas state senators passed a bill to punish sanctuary cities, counties, and colleges, that fail to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The passage came on a straight party-line vote, 21-10.
Before passing the bill, the senators debated on the floor for six hours. More than 30 amendments were offered. One, proposed by SB 4’s author, Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), added more teeth to the bill by making failure to honor immigration detainers a crime that could remove the elected official from office.
“Our intention is to make it state law for our law enforcement officers to obey the detainers from I.C.E. and if they don’t, there are consequences both civil and criminal,” State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) told Fox 7 reporters.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared the sanctuary city issue to be an emergency item for this legislative session. This allowed the Senate to bypass the State’s constitutional restriction on voting on bills during the first 60 days of the legislative session.
Abbott responded quickly to the passage of the bill stating, “As Governor, I will not tolerate sanctuary city policies that put the citizens of Texas at risk. Elected officials do not get to pick and choose which laws they will obey.”
“Today’s action in the Senate helps ensure that Sheriffs and officials across Texas comply with federal immigration laws and honor Immigration and Custom Enforcement detainer requests that keep dangerous criminals off of our streets,” the governor stated. “I want to thank Senator Perry for his leadership on this issue and look forward to final passage in the Senate tomorrow.”
President of the Texas Senate, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, also praised Senator Perry for his work in moving this item forward. “No city in Texas should be allowed to ignore the law,” Patrick said in a written statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “I congratulate Sen. Perry on today’s vote in the Senate to pass SB 4 and thank him for his commitment to keeping our communities safe. Ending sanctuary cities was one of my top priorities and I am pleased that we are acting swiftly on the agenda of the people of Texas.”
Hundreds of people testified before the Senate Committee on State Affairs on February 3, Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported. The committee hearing went on late into the night. Protesters also attempted to disrupt the committee hearing which was held on the floor of the Senate Chamber. More than 500 people signed up to testify.
The passage of the bill comes as Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez claimed the national spotlight by declaring the state’s capital-seat county to be a sanctuary jurisdiction. Breitbart Texas reported on January 18, the sheriff’s intent to change her department’s policy in order to live up to a campaign pledge that earned her the nickname of “Sanctuary Sally.” Governor Abbott responded by threatening to pull the county’s state law enforcement grants.
The new policy went into effect on February 1. Sheriff Hernandez claimed she would not honor immigration detainers with the exception of certain major crimes. Many violent criminal aliens, drug smugglers, and human traffickers would not be included in her list of exceptions. Governor Abbott quickly honored his promise and cut an estimated $1.5 million from the rogue department.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion this week countering one of Sheriff Hernandez’ arguments about why she is refusing to follow the law. “In his letter Tuesday,” Breitbart Texas reported, “the Texas AG noted that questions were also raised about whether counties could be liable for holding inmates pursuant to a wrongful detainer. In that instance, a county’s good faith will avoid liability in a civil rights action.”
SB 4 will move from the Texas Senate to the House of Representatives where another lengthy debate is expected. Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus said he would support a “constructive” sanctuary city bill in the House, Breitbart Texas reported in December. However, the speaker did not define what he considered “constructive.”
“Speaker Straus will work with fellow House Members, Governor Abbott and law enforcement to ensure that there are no sanctuary cities in Texas,” said Jason Embry, communications director for Speaker Straus, in an email to Breitbart Texas in December.