Republished from MYSA.com, by Peggy Fikac, Fauzeya Rahman and Elizabeth Zavala, May 7, 2017. Image credit: image not covered by license. Contributor Donald Krebs.
The new law, which among its contentious provisions would ensure law officers can ask people they detain about their immigration status, has drawn promises of a legal challenge from opponents.
“We all support legal immigration. It helped to build America and Texas,” said the Republican governor. “Texas strongly supports the legal immigration that has been a part of our state from our very beginning. But legal immigration is different from harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes. … Our top priority is to keep our citizens safe.”
Abbott made a ban on sanctuary cities one of his top priorities this legislative session by declaring it an emergency item. He signed Senate Bill 4 into law using a Facebook livestream on his gubernatorial office’s official page just days after receiving the measure from the Legislature.
Reaction was swift. The measure has strong support among Republicans who say it is important to ensure communities comply fully with federal immigration officials, and vehement opposition from Democrats and immigrant advocates who say it will tear families apart.
“Why are we not listening to the chiefs and the sheriffs who say this will note make us more safe, but will do the opposite?” Menéndez asked.
McManus said, “We all knew this was coming.” He said his department would immediately revise its general manual of procedures to delete a section that stipulates officers will not ask individuals for immigration status.
Regardless of whether an officer actually asks about immigration status, McManus said, the impact will be the same.
“The biggest thing here is the negative impact that this will have in the community, as far as our relationship with the community,” McManus said. “Because what you are going to find is that people will be afraid to talk to the police for fear of us asking for their immigration status.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, the longtime politician who spent time in the Texas Legislature and former mayor, said he’s “never seen things as bad as they are today.” When reached for comment Sunday night, Wolff said while he isn’t surprised, he thought the bill was “a terrible mark on our state.”
“I think at some point it’s going to be held unconstitutional, but it’s going to take a while to do it. It’s just a very sad mark on Texas.”
On Friday, Wolff sent a letter to Abbott, asking for a meeting to discuss SB 4, but had not heard from the governor as of Sunday night, he said. Wolff added that he didn’t know what steps the county could take in opposition to the bill.
“I don’t have an analysis of the bill to know what our rights are,” he said, adding that the county already complies with detainer requests when someone is put in jail.
“I don’t know what rights we have, if any,” he said. Wolff added that he expects to see “several lawsuits” filed soon challenging SB 4.
Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said on Twitter, “This ‘show me your papers’ bill is hate legislation. Shameful it got through. Black mark on House *leadership*.”
The GOP-majority Legislature ran over Democratic objections to the bill to get it to Abbott’s desk.
Abbott, in signing the ban, credited the work of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate and had made the sanctuary cities issue a priority, and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Straus had said early on he expected some form of a sanctuary cities measure to pass, although he had envisioned one that would address the concerns of law enforcement.
The term sanctuary cities doesn’t have a precise definition, but it’s generally used to refer to policies seen as giving safe harbor to undocumented immigrants by failing to cooperate fully with federal immigration officials.
It provides for removal from office for elected or appointed officials who don’t comply with the law, and civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day for entities that violate the law.
Abbott in signing the measure cited anew Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policies, which prompted him to cut funding to her county after she said she only would honor federal immigration detainers asking her to extend her hold on suspects for possible deportation if they were booked for certain serious crimes.
“Those policies are sanctuary city policies and won’t be tolerated in Texas,” he said.
Abbott also referred to the case of Kate Steinle, killed in 2015 in California allegedly by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record who had repeatedly been deported.
“He should never have been in this country. If he hadn’t, Kate would still be alive today,” Abbott said. “Kate’s death was more than a murder — it was gross negligence by government policy. Texas will not be complicit in endangering our citizens the way Kate Steinle was endangered.”
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