Anti-Sanctuary Cities bill headed to the Texas House

A bill to ban so-called "sanctuary cities" will head to the full House for a vote. But the version going to the House is slightly different than what passed out of the Senate.

AUSTIN - The House Committee on State Affairs voted to send a bill aimed at banning so-called sanctuary cities to the full House for a vote. 

Senate Bill 4 will require all law enforcement agencies honor ICE detainers, which are requests to hold a person in custody while their immigration status is investigated. It also makes it a Class A misdemeanor if sheriffs, constables and police chiefs don't honor the detainers.

SB4 passed out of the Senate back in February.

The version approved by the House committee Wednesday does have some changes. The original language allowed officers to ask anyone about their immigration status if they were detained, which includes being pulled over for a traffic violation. The House version only allows officers to ask about status once someone is arrested.

Still, Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), who sits on the committee that voted the bill out, says the bill is unnecessary.

"Despite the improvements we made in committee, SB 4 is still a heavy-handed solution to an imaginary problem. I will continue to oppose SB 4 and stand with my colleagues in the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and House Democratic Caucus to fight the legislation on the House floor," Rodriguez said in a statement.

"And if it comes down to a vote along party lines, my Republican colleagues will own their vote on SB 4. They will own the unnecessary suffering caused by the bill, the decrease in public safety, the next generation of taxpayer-backed lawsuits and the significant growth in the size and power of the Office of the Attorney General. Now is not the right time for Texas to enact this sweeping legislation, as there is much uncertainty on the national level. The Texas Legislature should continue to monitor the relationship between local policing policies and public safety, collecting data for the purpose of crafting better public policy.

"Only when a legitimate threat to public safety has been identified and the federal government’s future plans understood should the legislature consider taking the unprecedented step of undermining local control over policing policy," he added. 

The President of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) says his number one goal is to kill the bill.

"I don't know that this bill is anything but kind of a political ploy. It doesn't make, it doesn't help local law enforcement, it doesn't make us any safer, and candidly, it, you know, forces us to release from our jails more violent offenders, who may be home grown and have to keep non-violent, undocumented people in jail," said Anchia. 

Police officers from across the state, including Austin's police chief, have told lawmakers the bill will hurt their community policing efforts.

No word yet on when the House will take a vote. 

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