With the Trump administration’s efforts to get rid of ‘sanctuary cities’ nationwide stalling in the nation’s court, Texas took the matter into its own hands. On Thursday, state lawmakers approved a the nation’s first statewide ban on cities and counties with a sanctuary status.
Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Could Get Arrested
Under the new law, local law enforcement agencies can enforce immigration rules against any immigrants they detain, while the sheriffs and police chiefs who refuse to follow the rules can land in jail.
Conservatives in the state legislature were able to pass a last-moment tweak to the law that could allow local police inquire about people’s immigration status during traffic stops and on other similar occasions. The new law will turn into reality a scenario that the Trump has been pushing for for months, but most illegal immigrants dread.
The bill was advanced in the middle of the night on the Senate floor, and after 15 hours of heated debates, the Texas House of Representatives passed it too. Despite their best efforts, Democrats were unable to stop the bill as they were outnumbered in both chambers. Democratic lawmakers are concerned the new rules will pave the way to unprecedented racial profiling.
The bill will also allow the nation’s second most populous state cut funding to local governments that do not comply with federal immigration laws. Other red states pushed for similar measures but the Lone Star State is the first one to successfully do it.
Texas is the only U.S. state that can prosecute law enforcement officers based on misdemeanor criminal charges for impeding immigration law enforcement. Police chiefs and other government employees could also lose their jobs.
The law also imposes a $1,500 fine for any public official who disobeys federal immigration laws. A second violation would trigger a $25,500 penalty.
Controversial Bill Gets Final Nod
The bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Charlie Geren said the ban is designed to keep streets free of “bad people” and Texans “safe”. Geren underlined the bill does not affect law-abiding residents or people who don’t hang out with criminals.
The initial proposal allowed local police to inquire people about their immigration status only when those people were taken into police custody. In March, the state Senate allowed the questions for anyone in detention.
In the final version, law enforcement officers can ask both arrested and detained people about their immigration status.
Democrats tried to block the measure but without success. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas complained the bill would enable law enforcement profile Texans based on accent, appearance, and background.
The Trump administration is also trying to cut federal funds for jurisdictions with a sanctuary status. However, a California judge recently blocked the president’s sanctuary city executive order. Texas is poised to continue its anti-illegal immigration quest regardless of the federal government’s failures.
In Travis County, sheriff Sally Hernandez made the headlines when she ignored federal requests to arrest and wait for the possible deportation of suspects who hadn’t committed violent crimes or immigration offenses. After the governor striped the county of grant funding, Hernandez pledged to comply with a state ban if it passes.
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