Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the State’s sanctuary city bill into law Sunday night during a Facebook Live event from his office. The new law is now the toughest anti-sanctuary city law in the United States and provides for criminal and civil penalties for police chiefs and sheriffs that refuse to honor immigration detainers.
“Let’s be clear about something. We all support legal immigration. It helped to build America and Texas,” the governor said before signing the bill. “Legal immigration is different from harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes. This law cracks down on policies like the Travis County sheriff who declared she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes. Those policies are sanctuary city policies and won’t be tolerated in Texas.”
The bill, Senate Bill 4 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), passed both chambers of the legislature before coming to Abbott’s desk for signature. The law will go into effect on September 1, 2017. This provides time for departments like the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to come into compliance.
Following the bill’s passage by the legislature, Travis County Sheriff “Sanctuary Sally” Hernandez expressed her displeasure with the new law. “I am disappointed because this is not in the best interest of public safety,” the sheriff wrote in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. It ties the hands of our law enforcement agency and pushes victims of crime into the shadows. While I hate seeing a state law like this come to pass, I have always followed the law and that will not change.”
Earlier this year, Travis County became the poster child for sanctuary cities when the sheriff led the nation in the first Immigration and Customs Enforcement Declined Detainer Outcome Report. That report revealed more than 70 percent of criminal aliens released nationwide after detainers were issued were in Travis County, Breitbart Texas reported.
Governor Abbott made the sanctuary city issue an emergency item for the Texas Legislature during his State of the State Address in January. The Texas Senate acted on the issue right away, passing SB4 in February. The bill went to the House where it sat until passage on April 27. The Senate confirmed the changes made by the House and sent the bill to Governor Abbott on May 3.
Texas attempted several times under then-Governor Rick Perry to pass sanctuary city legislation. The bill would pass one body of the legislature or the other but never both. This time, Governor Abbott was able to foster an environment whereby both chambers of the legislature could find their way through to final passage.
Following final passage, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said, “In the past six years, criminal aliens have been charged with more than 566,000 crimes in Texas including kidnapping, homicide, burglary and much more. There is no excuse for endangering our communities by allowing criminal aliens who have committed a crime to go free.”
“SB 4 will ensure that no liberal local official can flaunt the law,” Patrick added.
Key provisions in the bill call for criminal and civil penalties for Texas Sheriffs and chiefs of police who fail to honor immigration detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, Breitbart Texas reported. It also includes a provision that allows police officers to inquire about the immigration status of a person they have detained.
Abbott says this provision is vastly different than the Arizona law that requires police officers to check immigration status on people they encounter. The Texas law “allows officers to check” the immigration status but does not require it. He said this provision of the bill has been tested and upheld, even by the liberal justices on the Supreme Court.
The bill also provides that an elected official who refuses to comply with the law can be removed from office, fined, and even jailed. “They could end up in the same jail with the criminals they are trying to protect,” Abbott told Breitbart Texas in an interview following the signing.
Despite rumors being spread by the bill’s opponents, SB4 prohibits an officer from asking about the immigration status of any crime victim or witness to a crime. An exception is included if the person’s immigration status is germane to the crime as in a human smuggling crime, or when the victim or witness could obtain a protected immigrant status under provisions provided to a witness or crime victim.
Abbott concluded his signing by saying, “There is a reason people come to American because we are a nation of laws and Texas is doing its best to keep it that way.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.