In early May, Texas lawmakers approved a bill that would ban sanctuary cities and threaten non-compliant law enforcement officers with jail time, fines, and removal from office.
The bill cleared the GOP-controlled legislature last week, and was signed into law this Sunday.
SB 4, which will take effect on September 1st, requires police officers to cooperate with ICE agents and requires sheriffs to honor the agency’s requests to hold a person in advance of deportation. It also enables cops to ask a person about immigration status during any legal detention.
“Citizens expect law enforcement officers to enforce the law. Citizens deserve law breakers to face legal consequences,” announced Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a surprise Facebook livestream signing of the law.
Democrats say Abbott used the social media broadcast as a way to avoid the protests that no doubt would have accompanied a public signing.
“Quite frankly I think it was a cowardly way to do it,” said Texas state Rep. Cesar Blanco. “I think he wanted to get it done quickly with less friction.”
But protestors showed up anyway, crowding around the Governor’s mansion on Sunday night for a protest and vigil. Immigrant rights activists carried signs with the words “Abbott is a racist.”
Fighting illegal immigration by punishing sanctuary cities was one of President Trump’s key campaign promises. In January, he issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE.
Law enforcement officers in cities like Los Angeles argue that helping ICE would destroy the trust between citizens and police and endanger immigrants by making them afraid to contact the police.
“Elected officials and law enforcement agencies, they don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey,” said Abbott.
The Dems are furious. ACLU exec. Terri Burke calls SB 4 an “assault on humanity” and insists the organization will challenge the law “in the courts, at the ballot box, and in the streets if we have to.”
Abbott criticizes the law’s opponents as people who “seek to promote lawlessness in Texas” and insists SB 4’s key provisions have been tested and approve by SCOTUS.
“As governor, my top priority is public safety,” said Abbott. “And this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets. It’s inexcusable to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domestic violence, and robbery.”
Texas cops have banded together in opposition to the law.
“We officers work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community base policing and outreach programs,” reads a commentary endorsed by cops in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Arlington, and Forth Worth.
The new law “will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities” at a time when “distrust and fear of contacting or assisting the police has already become evident among legal immigrants.”
The Washington Post defines “sanctuary city” as a jurisdiction in which law enforcement officers “refuse to hold immigrants who have been arrested for local crimes past their release date so that ICE can take them into federal custody and try to deport them.” These cities and towns are magnets for illegal immigrants.
Under the new Texas law, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE will be fined up to $25,500 a day. Elected or appointed officials who refuse to cooperate with the agency could be removed from office; cops who don’t cooperate could be thrown in jail.