Texas House votes to ban ‘sanctuary cities’

The Texas House passed legislation Thursday to impose harsher penalties on “sanctuary” cities that try to protect illegal immigrants.

After a 16-hour debate, the Republican-controlled legislature approved a ban on “sanctuary cities” just before 3 a.m. on Thursday, allowing Texas to withhold funding from county or local governments that do not fully comply with immigration law.

Texas can now also criminally charge police chiefs and other city officials, as well as remove them from office, should they not help enforce immigration law.

In Travis County, Sheriff Sally Hernandez put forth a policy refusing to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests, unless they are accompanied by a judicial warrant or court order, or if the individual has been charged with or convicted of serious crimes such as capital murder or aggravated sexual assault.

It is this type of policy that made Travis County, and other cities and counties nationwide, a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants. Now, Hernandez’s policy and similar ones are in jeopardy in Texas.

The bill passed with an amendment from Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, that would allow local law enforcement officers to ask about a person’s immigration status during both an arrest or a lawful detention, like a routine traffic stop.

The bill now goes to a conference committee next, where Senate and House representatives will work toward a mutually agreeable bill before sending it off to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.

The vote is a major victory for the Republican governor, who had declared sanctuary cities an “emergency” item. The move by Texas comes just days after President Trump suffered a major blow to his executive order attempting to withhold federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions.

Hernandez praised Texas Democrats for opposing the bill.

“They recognized the cost of forcing law enforcement to do the job of federal government and the liability it places upon us,” she said. “These men and women inspire me and I have great respect for the valiant fight they continue to wage for the sake of public safety in our great state.”

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