Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, expressed excitement Wednesday about signing legislation that will effectively block so-called “sanctuary cities” in the Lone Star State.
Abbott tweeted that he is getting his pen “warmed up” to sign a bill that will make it more difficult for jurisdictions to refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration policies.
The Texas sanctuary city ban wins final legislative approval. I'm getting my signing pen warmed up. #txlege #tcot https://t.co/OHmspC5Zhz— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott)1493857388.0
The law, known as Senate Bill 4, cleared the final legislative hurdle Wednesday, garnering a party-line vote of 20-11. The measure will grant sweeping powers to Texas police officers, allowing them to question the immigration status of those who have been detained, should the law enforcement officers have reason to believe they are in the U.S. illegally.
Also, the bill blocks local jurisdictions from passing or enforcing counter-legislation that would bar police officers from asking about a detained person’s legal status.
While Democrats have condemned the bill, many Republicans have defended the new policy. State Republican Sen. Charles Perry called it a “status quo bill” that will not encourage racial profiling, as many on the left have suggested:
Nowhere in the bill as it came back from the House does it instruct officers to demand papers. Nowhere in the bill does it allow an officer to enforce federal immigration law. Officers still do not have the authority to arrest someone merely for being unlawfully present [in the country], which is a federal power.
But state Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia disagreed and said that the law will result in police officers “investigating the immigration status of a person, including children, without probable cause.”
“I’m afraid this legislation will lead to harassment and profiling of Latinos, and this is the last thing any of us would want,” she continued. “This bill will go from a broken taillight to a broken family to broken faith in our system.”
The controversial policy has also been criticized by the police chiefs in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, all of whom said the bill will drive an even wider chasm between the law enforcement and immigrant communities.
“This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community,” they wrote in a joint op-ed in The Dallas Morning News. “And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.”
Abbott’s approval of the bill comes several months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January, seeking to bar federal dollars from going to cities that enact “sanctuary” policies.
A federal judge blocked that order last month, deciding that threatening to take away funds from cities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration policies could be unconstitutional.