News & Politics

Texas Becomes First State to Outlaw Sanctuary Cities

Delivering on a long-held objective, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday signed a bill that effectively bans sanctuary cities, counties, and universities in the state of Texas. The law, which opponents plan to challenge in the courts, allows police to inquire about the immigration status of persons they detain and requires officials to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation.

The Texas law, which will go into effect Sept. 1, will create a criminal charge for law enforcement officials who violate federal immigration laws. Defiant elected or appointed officials could be removed from office and local jurisdictions will be charged up to $25,000 for each day they are in violation. It is the first law of its kind in the nation.

Via the Dallas Morning News:

“Texans expect us to keep them safe, and that is exactly what we are going to do by me signing this law,” Abbott said before inking his signature during a Facebook Live video Sunday night — the first time a Texas governor has signed a bill through an Internet live stream.

Abbott, who designated the ban as an emergency item in January, signed the bill just four days after both chambers of the Legislature gave it final approval. Its passage is a major victory for Abbott and Republicans who advocate for stricter enforcement of immigration law. The Legislature has tried to pass a ban every session since 2011.

Opponents of the law immediately condemned the law and promised to see the governor in court.

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that the law was a “colossal blunder” and that the lawmakers who championed it were small-hearted.

“MALDEF will do its level best, in court and out, to restore Texas, the state where MALDEF was founded, to its greater glory, and to help Texas to overcome ‘Abbott’s Folly,’ ” he said in a written statement.

Saenz said the law would alienate “nearly half the state population” and make people subject to widespread racial profiling. He said the law undermines voters’ rights to choose elected officials who set local policy, makes the job of local law enforcement more difficult by straining relationships with immigrant communities and would cost Texas in trade and tourism, as well as legal challenges.

“This racist and wrongheaded piece of legislation ignores our values, imperils our communities and sullies our reputation as a free and welcoming state,” Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas said in a prepared statement. “We will fight this assault in the courts, at the ballot box, and in the streets if we have to.”

Abbott addressed the legal challenges during his Facebook Live signing event last night, noting that key provisions in the bill have already been tested and approved at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It simply makes sense,” he said. “Citizens expect law enforcement officers to enforce the law, and citizens deserve lawbreakers to face legal consequences.”

On Fox & Friends Monday, Abbott said the legislation will lead to better cooperation between local, state and federal officials, ensuring that everyone is obeying federal immigration laws.

“Isn’t this quasi-insane that we have to pass a law to force law enforcement officers to comply with the law?” Abbott quipped.

He added that opponents of the bill, such as state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), are just throwing out “wild rhetoric” that’s divorced from reality.

“If you were here, regardless of your status, and you have not committed a crime that makes you subject to an ICE detainer, you have no problems whatsoever,” Abbott said.