Texas House Passes Bill to Jail ‘Sanctuary’ Sheriffs, Police Chiefs

Sally Hernandez AP Photo
AP File Photo

The Texas House passed a tough anti-sanctuary bill containing provisions making it a crime for sheriffs and chiefs of police to refuse to cooperate with immigration officials. They could also be removed from office for providing “sanctuary” for the criminal illegal aliens in their jails.

Senate Bill 4 finally passed the Texas House Thursday afternoon by a vote of 94-53 along party lines.

Following the bill’s final passage in the House, the Texas House Republican Caucus sent out a statement saying the bill ensure federal immigration laws that are on the books will be followed and enforced in Texas. The caucus stated the bill prevents local entities from creating policies that threaten public safety.

“The purpose of this legislation is to protect Texans from criminals who are here illegally. We are trying to make sure those bad actors are detained until we can determine their status, ” said House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth). “This bill will not affect law abiding citizens, only those that are in trouble with the police.”

Caucus Chairman Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), said, “House Republicans have proven time and time again that we are committed to protecting the rule of law and keeping our communities safe. We will continue to work tirelessly to pass legislation that ensures the safety of Texans, such as Senate Bill 4.”

The crime imposed would be a Class A misdemeanor for not complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.

The measure was passed by the Texas Senate in early February.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has steadfastly said that he would sign the bill and has pushed for its passage. It would go into effect on September 1.

Texas sheriffs and other law enforcement officials were at the anti-sanctuary jurisdiction (Senate Bill 4) protest at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, including Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Representatives from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement officials were also there with DREAMers and other supporters of illegal immigrants, reported Breitbart Texas.

When asked about whether he could be put in jail, Harris County Sheriff Gonzalez replied, “I guess potentially they could if we aren’t in compliance.”

The Houston-area sheriff added that he thought the legislature was going down a “slippery slope” when passing a law that would meet out criminal sanctions when dealing with immigration programs, “Some of which are voluntary in nature.” Gonzalez said those who elected the law enforcement officials should be able to determine if they are doing a good job.

Gonzalez reportedly told those gathered at the rally that Senate Bill 4 will make local communities more dangerous and is bad public policy.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo referred to the legislation as an unfunded mandate. He has also repeated the oft-stated opposition that it would make illegal immigrants in communities afraid to cooperate with police officers.

In January, Governor Greg Abbott responded quickly when the Travis County Sheriff announced she would be changing her department’s policy about cooperating with federal immigration officials. The Texas Governor told her doing so “betrays your oath and the residents of Travis County.” Abbott gave her until February 1 to reverse her policy. The governor cut Travis County’s state law enforcement grants on February 1 when she refused.

A report issued by ICE on March 20 exposing sanctuary jurisdictions that released criminal aliens under an immigration detainer, ranked Travis County, Texas, as number one in the nation, Breitbart Texas reported. Well over 70 percent of the 206 criminal aliens released during the week of January 28-Februay 3 were released by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Travis County Sheriff “Sanctuary Sally” Hernandez has denied that she is not in compliance.

On Wednesday, House representatives debated SB 4 for 16 hours, finally convening at 3 a.m. They voted 93-to-54 along party lines to advance the bill to a final reading.

Texas Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) is the author of the bill. The sponsor of the bill in the Texas House is Rep. Charlie Geren.

The controversial bill allows law enforcement officials to ask folks who are being detained about their immigration status. Open borders and amnesty advocates decry the measure as “a show-me-your-papers style law” and have compared it to Arizona’s and California’s controversial laws.

Congressman Joaquin Castro (R-San Antonio) said the Texas Legislature has “succumbed to fear and scapegoating.”

A recent poll reveals that Texans overwhelmingly support (by 93 percent), a police officer being able to check a person’s immigration status when they are arrested for a crime. Forty-three percent say that immigration status may be checked during a traffic stop, 40 percent say it is okay if the person is reporting a crime, and 39 percent believe that asking about their status is okay if the person is a witness to a crime. Ninety-nine percent of Republicans, and 88 percent of Democrats, think immigration status should be checked during an arrest.

Ninety-three percent of Hispanics believe it is okay to check the immigration status during an arrest, 38 percent think it should be permitted when a person is a crime witness, and 37 percent say it is okay during a routine traffic stop. Interestingly, Latinos are more likely than Anglos to say that immigration status should be checked when a person is reporting a crime (46 percent to 36 percent).

In spite of these figures, the 2017 Texas Lyceum Poll acknowledged that “the opinions contained [in the poll] are not as conservative as one might expect from other polls, which tend to be of registered or likely voters.” The poll, conducted from April 3-9 this year, surveyed Texas adults.

If the Senate does not accept the changes made by the House, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences and move the bill forward to the Governor for signature. Once signed by Governor Abbott, the bill will become effective on September 1, 2017.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information from the Texas House Republican Caucus.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.


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