After 16 hours of emotional testimony, the Texas Senate's State Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with or enforce immigration laws.
The vote on Senate Bill 4 (SB4) was made just before 1 a.m. Friday.
SB4 will require all law enforcement in Texas honor U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) detainers. Those detainers are voluntary requests from ICE to hold people who have been arrested for 48 hours while ICE investigates their immigration status.
While agencies are not legally required to honor the detainers, cities and counties that don't enforce them or only do so in certain cases have been coined "sanctuary cities".
Thursday morning, the Texas State Capitol corridors were buzzing with people as a line of Texas residents waited to sign up and speak about SB4. More than 450 people signed up to speak about SB4.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made banning so-called "sanctuary cities" a priority this legislative session, opening the door for legislators to waive the 60-day waiting period for voting on legislation.
The Senate State Affairs Committee decided to take up SB4 the same week Abbott made the announcement.
The hearing started with the bill's author, Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) laying out the details of the bill and stating why he wrote it.
"Our civil and our criminal justice systems are built on the integrity that people believe it will be equally applied without prejudice," Perry said.
He said the intent of the bill is not to lead to discrimination but to enforce the order of law.
"Why do I get treated one way and yet one individual or jurisdiction decides someone else gets treated differently?" Perry said. "That is the ultimate cost if we go down this road."
Austin resident Norma Herrera also testified.
"Please abandon these efforts to make immigrants ever more disposable," she said as the people in the gallery applauded.
Herrera, a former legislative staffer, and her family are immigrants who overstayed their visitor visas but now have documentation to be in the United States. She said her family worked to realize the American dream and want others to have that chance.
"My brother is an elementary school math teacher, my sister is a food bank program manager, my cousin is a neonatal ICU nurse, my dad has labored in Texas oil fields for 30 years," Herrera said, adding that her mother also is works in public service as a caretaker for the elderly.
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