The bill passed by the Texas Senate this week calls for the creation of criminal penalties for state, county, or local officials who chose to ignore federal immigration law. The bill also creates a provision whereby the official could be removed from office if they fail to enforce the law.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick defended the razor-like teeth added to the bill in an interview Thursday morning with KTSA radio.
“You have to have some teeth” Patrick told KTSA’s Jack Riccardi. Patrick said an new law needs teeth to make sure people don’t ignore it. “If they ignore it this time, money, potential civil consequences or criminal consequences,” he said.
The Lt. Governor cited the action taken by the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court Tuesday night as an example of why the penalties are necessary.
The Dallas County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 on a “Welcoming Communities” resolution that included language to “end nonessential collaborations” with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported.
“This is a resolution that supports open borders and will label Dallas County as a sanctuary county,” the county’s lone Republican Commissioner Mike Cantrell told the Morning News. “This resolution is nothing more than pitching a personal and political agenda.”
“The purpose of this resolution is the dream – the American dream,” Commissioner Elba Garcia, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico said. When asked to define “nonessential collaborations” with ICE, she was reported to answer, “We don’t want to do the federal government’s work. ‘Nonessential’ means exactly that.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, “We’re not trying to poke a bear. If the bear eventually comes over here, we’ll try to fight the bear. But until then, we’re trying to work with the bear.”
The “bear” has apparently been poked. Texas Governor Greg Abbott told the Dallas Morning News, “If anybody acts on that resolution to make Dallas a sanctuary city, if any sanctuary city policy is implemented in any way, the hammer will come down on them.”
Governor Abbott previously exchanged words and tough letters with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in October 2015 when she announced a policy change to evaluate immigration detainers on a case-by-case basis. Abbott responded that sanctuary city policies will “no longer be tolerated in Texas.” While Sheriff Valdez has announced the policy, it appears she has continued to cooperate with ICE officials in order to avoid the loss of state law enforcement grants.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez ignored the threats and proceeded to not only change the department’s policy, but actually released criminal aliens from her jail despite immigration holds issued by ICE agents. Abbott responded by stripping $1.5 million in state grants from “Sanctuary Sally’s” office.
The “Sanctuary Cities” bill, SB4, passed the Texas Senate Tuesday evening on a straight party vote of 20-11. An amendment added to the bill by its author, Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), placed more teeth in 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.
Other counties, including Harris and El Paso Counties, may also be considering sanctuary policies.