window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-29484371-30');
Friday , October 19 2018
Home | Tag Archives: texas sanctuary cities

Tag Archives: texas sanctuary cities

Appeals Court Allows More of Texas “Sanctuary Cities” Law to go Into Effect

A panel of three appellate judges ruled on Monday that parts of the state’s immigration enforcement legislation, Senate Bill 4, can go into effect while the case plays out on appeal.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia halted the part of the bill that requires jail officials to honor all detainers. He also blocked other sections that prohibit local entities from pursuing “a pattern or practice that ‘materially limits’ the enforcement of immigration laws” and another that prohibits “assisting or cooperating” with federal immigration officers as reasonable or necessary.

While a hearing on the state’s appeal of that ruling is scheduled for Nov. 6, a panel of U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled Monday that the detainer provision can stand for now. The panel ruled, however, that based on its interpretation of the law, the part that requires local jails to “comply with, honor and fulfill” detainers does not require detention based on every detainer issued.

“The ‘comply with, honor, and fulfill’ requirement does not require detention pursuant to every ICE detainer request,” the panel wrote. “Rather, the ‘comply with, honor, and fulfill’ provision mandates that local agencies cooperate according to existing ICE detainer practice and law.” The court also ruled that jails do not need to comply if a person under a detainer request provides proof of lawful presence.

The appellate court also ruled that local and college police officers with “authority that may impact immigration” cannot be prevented from assisting federal immigration officers. It said the state was likely to win those arguments during a subsequent hearing and argued the issue has already been settled in an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. United States.

But the 5th Circuit also said that portions of the measure that prevent “materially limiting” cooperation with immigration officials were too vague. The court held that the word “limit” could be too broadly interpreted and left a decision on that up to the subsequent panel.

The court offered a mixed ruling on another controversial item in the bill, a section of the law that prevents local governments from “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. The judges kept that injunction in place, but said it only applies to the word “endorse.” The bill, as passed and signed, would have made elected and appointed officials subject to a fine, jail time and possible removal from office for violating all or parts of the legislation. Opponents keyed in on the “endorsement” provision as something that would open up most officials to possible fines and jail time.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the decision and said his office was confident the entire bill would subsequently be found constitutional.

“We are pleased today’s 5th Circuit ruling will allow Texas to strengthen public safety by implementing the key components of Senate Bill 4,” Paxton said in a statement. “Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into Texas communities.”

Democrats said the state was using delay tactics that would disenfranchise Texas’ minorities.

“Texans cannot wait nor afford another round of years-long litigation while this law tears families apart and sows distrust of and confusion among our law enforcement agencies,” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “If the court allows the state’s delay tactics to succeed, it will further normalize Texas Republicans’ dysfunctional one-party rule and condemn Texas Latinos to living under a cloud of uncertainty and fear.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Here’s everything you need to know about Senate Bill 4, a controversial immigration enforcement measure banning “sanctuary cities” across Texas. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

El Paso City Council Votes Down City ID Program

The El Paso City Council narrowly voted against creating a municipal identification card program amid concerns that the measure would lead to the border city being perceived as the kind of “sanctuary” jurisdiction that has been the target of President Donald Trump and Texas’ Republican leaders.

In a 5-4 vote, the council voted down funding the program, which immigrant rights groups and advocates for the poor have called for since 2014 as a way for those unable to obtain a driver’s license or other state-issued identification sign up for bank accounts and access city services such as libraries. Applicants would have had to prove they reside in the city to obtain the card.

Mayor Dee Margo cast the deciding vote against the measure, explaining that he didn’t want El Paso to be perceived as “sanctuary” city – the common term for a jurisdiction that doesn’t enforce state or federal immigration laws.

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, which punishes elected and appointed officials for enacting policies that ignore federal immigration laws. The punishment for doing so could be jail time and the denial of grant funds from the entity in violation. Opponents of the measure have filed a lawsuit to halt the law, which takes effect Sept. 1. A federal judge has yet to rule on that case.

The Trump administration has also spoken in recent months about cutting off some federal funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

“I do not want to give the inference that we are a sanctuary city, as we are not,” Margo, a former Republican state representative, said in a statement. “Redevelopment grants are critical to the economic development of our community, and we cannot afford to put those funding opportunities in jeopardy.”

Margo added that the cost of the program was too high when he considered the city’s other pressing needs like public safety. The city was debating a potential match of $320,000 with the county for the identification program, according to the city council agenda.

In a statement, the Border Network for Human Rights, which launched the petition in support of creating the program in 2014, said the city gave in to political pressure.

“Fear mongering ran deep in today’s discussion. SB 4 was invoked — even though it does nothing to prohibit a Community ID program,” BNHR spokesperson Gabriela Castaneda said. “The Council was threatened, intimidated, and bullied by racists, and, ultimately, it worked. This bodes ill for our city.”

The vote shouldn’t be a complete surprise after the council expressed concerns as early as April 2016 over how the ID card would be viewed by state leaders, according to a city report issued then.

In the past year, there has been legislation filed at both the state and federal level regarding ‘sanctuary cities.’ These bills seek to prohibit local government entities from having policies, ordinances, and rules that prohibit or interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws,” the city’s report states.

Proponents of the measure cited similar projects in Oakland and San Franciscoas examples of where the municipal ID program has worked. They also made clear that the card wouldn’t have the same benefits as a Texas driver’s license and couldn’t be used for travel or to get through a TSA checkpoint.

El Paso County is still considering an ID card for its residents.

Disclosure: Dee Margo has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • An El Paso-based immigrant rights group could see its hopes for a municipal ID card dashed after leaders there determined that issuing the card could prompt immigration hardliners to label the town a sanctuary city. [Full story]
  • A standardized ID would aid the homeless, indigent and help undocumented immigrants prove they qualify for relief from deportation under the president’s recently announced executive action, an immigrant rights group says. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Advocates call for More “Sanctuary Congregations” Ahead of new Texas Law

Before Senate Bill 4, a far-reaching immigration law, goes into effect on Sept. 1, opponents are mobilizing across Texas, including those hoping to see more Texas churches offer “sanctuary” to the undocumented.

The backdrop for Rev. Noel Andersen’s sermon last week wasn’t a church dais but the gates of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. The unusual setting didn’t stop him from preaching about his disappointment in Gov. Greg Abbott for signing one of the most aggressive state-based immigration laws in the country the night before.

“Somebody told me once that the Bible was important here,” Andersen said, ginning up an already fiery crowd of opponents that have, since January, railed against Senate Bill 4.

Andersen is from Washington, D.C., where his nonprofit, Church World Service, is based. But he said he expects to spend much of the summer in Texas, working to reignite a movement of churches offering “sanctuary” to the undocumented, an effort that has taken on a new urgency since Abbott signed SB 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1.

“We do expect to see a greater need now as immigrants are being more targeted through SB 4 and through President Trump’s policies,” Andersen said. “[The goal is] helping stop a deportation order and creating space to create a legal campaign to be able to stop that deportation and keep those people with their families.”

The bill allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest. It also punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. The governor and other supporters of the bill insist it’s needed to deter people who are already in the country illegally from committing more crimes.

But law enforcement agencies and faith-based organizations argue the law opens up the state to legalized racial profiling and threatens to undermine the trust immigrants place in local police officers. Some religious groups argue that those concerns have been largely ignored by Texas Republican leaders that have supported the bill. The governor’s office did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story.

But Andersen said there is a silver lining if the new law draws more attention to the decades-long practice of recognizing churches and other buildings as “sensitive locations” when it comes to immigration enforcement.

“Sanctuary congregations are committed to opening their congregations to undocumented people who are in need,” Andersen said. “Oftentimes, that includes someone facing a deportation order or an imminent deportation.”

Andersen’s effort is just one example of how opponents of SB 4 are expected to mobilize over the summer across Texas ahead of the bill’s Sept. 1 implementation date. Last week, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo sued Texas over the bill. More lawsuits are expected.

Faith-based groups have the wind at their backs in one respect: Immigration and Customs Enforcement have long recognized churches and other buildings as generally off limits, except under extreme circumstances.

“The policies provide that enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals should generally be avoided, and that such actions may only take place when (a) prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official, or (b) there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval,” an ICE memo states.

The “sensitive locations” policy predates Trump, but Andersen said he hasn’t heard the administration has plans to change it. In a memo released in March, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the policy was still in effect.

“They could rescind that, but we believe even without that policy … there is a certain symbolic protection that congregations and places of worship have,” he said.

The movement has been around since the 1980s, when a wave of Central American immigrants came to the United States seeking refuge. After a meeting between Presbyterians and a Quakers in Arizona, the two networks joined forces and began offering safe haven to Nicaraguans and El Salvadorans, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The movement eventually spread to Illinois, northern California and South Texas.

The movement has experienced a resurgence in the country since 2014 that included an Austin case involving a Central American undocumented immigrant. In June 2015, Sulma Franco, a gay woman from Guatemala, was taken in by the staff of First Unitarian Universalist Church after receiving a final deportation order. She said her sexual orientation made her a target in the violent Central American country and refused to report to ICE. The agency eventually relented, and Franco was granted a stay two months later.

To be sure, not all faith-based groups view themselves as sanctuary congregations, but some have a history of aiding undocumented people in other ways.

“Texas Baptist Convention has an immigration service center in San Antonio, but it doesn’t house anyone,” said Dr. Gus Reyes, the director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. “But anyone who is here and has any possibility of receiving legal status or going from a green card visa to becoming a U.S. citizen, we try to help those folks.”

Last week, Andersen expressed hope that Austin would set the example and spread the sanctuary message across the state.

“We have a strong movement in Austin, and we have dedicated faith leaders that work with immigrants and refugees throughout Texas,” he said.

Read related coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Senate Committee Advances Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill

After a 16-hour hearing that included tears, heckling, bursts of anger and warnings from lawmakers to witnesses to respect the rules of the Capitol’s upper chamber, the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines early Wednesday morning to advance a controversial state-based immigration bill to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 4, commonly known as the anti-sanctuary cities bill, would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws.

The bill, if passed, would allow local police to enforce immigration laws if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.

Testimony closely mirrored what witnesses have said since 2011. Proponents of the measure argued it was about the rule of law and guaranteeing the safety of Texans, while opponents, who turned out to the Capitol in vastly greater numbers than supporters, said the bill would codify racial profiling and erode the public’s trust in local police.

There was an added emphasis this year, however, on the debate over whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers are set-in-stone orders by the federal government that local sheriffs must follow or just requests to hold inmates that aren’t enforceable except under limited circumstances.

Thursday’s hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee kicked off at 8:30 a.m. on the Senate floor. Before 11 a.m., state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican and the committee’s chairwoman, said more than 450 people had signed up to speak on the measure. As of 1:40 p.m., the large majority of those that had testified spoke against the bill. They included interim Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley, who said he had concerns about his department being held liable for the actions of other officials. His department’s jurisdiction includes multiple counties.

“I am a little concerned [about] the strict liability it places on law enforcement that don’t manage the booking process,” he said.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, testified that the measure flies in the face of what Republicans in Austin allegedly champion – local control.

She also touted that El Paso is consistently ranked the safest city of its size and that beefed up immigration enforcement isn’t needed.

“When we become less safe because of the decisions made here in Austin, who will my voters throw out of office?” she said “We will end up being sued for a number of reasons. Who pays for that? The local taxpayer, and that is taxation without representation.”

But Perry, the bill’s author, said the bill was less about the threat of deportations and immigration and more about the rule of law.

“[If sheriffs] use discretion over what is and what is not a detainable offense, they are outside the bounds of law,” he said. He added that, under his bill, even undocumented immigrants shouldn’t fear being deported if they don’t break the law.

State Sen. José Rodríguez in the Senate State Affairs committee discussing state Sen. Charles Perry's bill banning sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses on Feb. 2, 2017.MARJORIE KAMYS COTERA FOR THE TEXAS TRIBUNE
State Sen. José Rodríguez in the Senate State Affairs committee discussing state Sen. Charles Perry’s bill banning sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses on Feb. 2, 2017.MARJORIE KAMYS COTERA FOR THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

Perry got some support from Jackson County Sheriff Andy “A.J.” Louderback, who has long supported more state-based immigration enforcement. Louderback pushed back against the argument that bills like SB 4 will make communities less safe.

“It’s not optional to ignore ICE detainers,” he said. “It’s often said our community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. That is simply not a factor.”

The hearing came just a day after Gov. Greg Abbott made good on earlier threats and eliminated about $1.5 million in state funding for Travis County over its new “sanctuary” policy under Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has said her department will cooperate with ICE on a very limited basis. Democrats tried to remind Perry that the governor’s actions gutted funding for not only the sheriff’s department but also for offices that provide legal and other services to thousands of Travis County residents.

Perry said the blame for that and any subsequent action in other parts of Texas aren’t the state’s fault.

“The state did not remove those funds,” he said. “The action of the jurisdiction, their decision to violate the law” did.

The hearing was interrupted several times in the morning and early afternoon when groups unfurled banners that stated their opposition to the bill while others shouted and chanted. Texas Department of Public Safety officers quickly removed protesters from the Senate gallery.

Cesar Espinosa, a member of immigrant advocacy group FIEL in Houston, said he waited in line for an hour and a half before he was able to sign up for testimony.

“We’re going to stay here as long as necessary in order to be able to deliver testimony to the Senate,” Espinosa said. “There’s a long list of people. We calculated last night and if a thousand people sign up to speak out against the vote it would take around 33 hours if everything goes well, with pauses and breaks it could take longer than that.”

Carla Perez, an undocumented student and leader of a morning rally held outside the Capitol against SB 4, said the bill endangers every Texan in the state, not just those who are undocumented.

“The safety of my family and all these people behind me who I deeply care about is in danger, it’s in danger thanks to anti-immigrant legislators like Governor Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and senate bill author Charles Perry,” she said. “These people are taking order from a very anti-immigrant, xenophobic and racist president and we’re seeing those kinds of legislations come down to the state level.”

As of Thursday afternoon the Senate committee was still listening to testimony. It’s unclear whether the committee will vote on the measure later as the bill has been posted for another public hearing on Friday morning.

Thursday’s hearing also came just days after Gov. Greg Abbott declared the bill an emergency item, meaning lawmakers can vote on the proposal earlier than they can the majority of bills, which can’t be considered for the first 60 days of the session.

Abbott has also been in a weeks-long war with Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, a Democrat who was sworn in in January. In response to Hernandez’s recent announcement that she would significantly roll back her cooperation with ICE, Abbott on Wednesday made good on an earlier threat and cut off state funding for Travis County.

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

Read more:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Protesters Flood Texas Capitol as Committee Debates Sanctuary Cities Bill

Hundreds of opponents of a controversial immigration proposal descended on the state Capitol Thursday as senators began the process of getting the bill to the governor’s desk.

Even as groups shouted down at them from the state Capitol’s Senate gallery, Republican lawmakers on Thursday held steady in their attempt to move a controversial immigration law past its first procedural hurdle.

Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, seeks to outlaw sanctuary cities, the common term for local governments that don’t enforce immigration laws. It is being heard in a Senate committee Thursday and if voted out, will make its way to the full Senate for a vote.

The proposal would allow local police to enforce immigration laws if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.

Republican lawmakers say the measure is necessary to uphold the rule of law and keep Texans safe from undocumented immigrants intent on doing harm to law abiding citizens and residents.

But opponents of the bill argue that the proposal would erode the trust between law enforcement and residents, encourage racial profiling and subject local governments to frivolous lawsuits because provisions in the bill may be interpreted too broadly.

Thursday’s hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee kicked off at 8:30 a.m. on the Senate floor. Before 11 a.m., state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican and the committee’s chairwoman, said more than 450 people had signed up to speak on the measure. As of 1:40 p.m., the large majority of those that had testified spoke against the bill. They included interim Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley, who said he had concerns about his department being held liable for the actions of other officials. His department’s jurisdiction includes multiple counties.

“I am a little concerned [about] the strict liability it places on law enforcement that don’t manage the booking process,” he said.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, testified that the measure flies in the face of what Republicans in Austin allegedly champion – local control.

She also touted that El Paso is consistently ranked the safest city of its size and that beefed up immigration enforcement isn’t needed.

“When we become less safe because of the decisions made here in Austin, who will my voters throw out of office?” she said “We will end up being sued for a number of reasons. Who pays for that? The local taxpayer, and that is taxation without representation.”

But Perry, the bill’s author, said the bill was less about the threat of deportations and immigration and more about the rule of law.

“[If sheriffs] use discretion over what is and what is not a detainable offense, they are outside the bounds of law,” he said. He added that, under his bill, even undocumented immigrants shouldn’t fear being deported if they don’t break the law.

State Sen. José Rodríguez in the Senate State Affairs committee discussing state Sen. Charles Perry's bill banning sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses on Feb. 2, 2017.MARJORIE KAMYS COTERA FOR THE TEXAS TRIBUNE
State Sen. José Rodríguez in the Senate State Affairs committee discussing state Sen. Charles Perry’s bill banning sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses on Feb. 2, 2017.MARJORIE KAMYS COTERA FOR THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

Perry got some support from Jackson County Sheriff Andy “A.J.” Louderback, who has long supported more state-based immigration enforcement. Louderback pushed back against the argument that bills like SB 4 will make communities less safe.

“It’s not optional to ignore ICE detainers,” he said. “It’s often said our community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. That is simply not a factor.”

The hearing came just a day after Gov. Greg Abbott made good on earlier threats and eliminated about $1.5 million in state funding for Travis County over its new “sanctuary” policy under Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has said her department will cooperate with ICE on a very limited basis.

Democrats tried to remind Perry that the governor’s actions gutted funding for not only the sheriff’s department but also for offices that provide legal and other services to thousands of Travis County residents.

Perry said the blame for that and any subsequent action in other parts of Texas aren’t the state’s fault.

“The state did not remove those funds,” he said. “The action of the jurisdiction, their decision to violate the law” did.

The hearing was interrupted several times in the morning and early afternoon when groups unfurled banners that stated their opposition to the bill while others shouted and chanted. Texas Department of Public Safety officers quickly removed protesters from the Senate gallery.

Cesar Espinosa, a member of immigrant advocacy group FIEL in Houston, said he waited in line for an hour and a half before he was able to sign up for testimony.

“We’re going to stay here as long as necessary in order to be able to deliver testimony to the Senate,” Espinosa said. “There’s a long list of people. We calculated last night and if a thousand people sign up to speak out against the vote it would take around 33 hours if everything goes well, with pauses and breaks it could take longer than that.”

Carla Perez, an undocumented student and leader of a morning rally held outside the Capitol against SB 4, said the bill endangers every Texan in the state, not just those who are undocumented.

“The safety of my family and all these people behind me who I deeply care about is in danger, it’s in danger thanks to anti-immigrant legislators like Governor Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and senate bill author Charles Perry,” she said. “These people are taking order from a very anti-immigrant, xenophobic and racist president and we’re seeing those kinds of legislations come down to the state level.”

As of Thursday afternoon the Senate committee was still listening to testimony. It’s unclear whether the committee will vote on the measure later as the bill has been posted for another public hearing on Friday morning.

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

Read more:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR –  The Texas Tribune

Texas Senate Committee Weighs “Sanctuary City” Ban (Live Video)

The Senate State Affairs committee meets Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m., CST, to hear state Sen. Charles Perry‘s bill banning sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses in Texas.

A sanctuary city or campus is the general term for entities that do not comply with federal immigration law. Perry’s bill would punish local governments if county jails fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. On Wednesday, Perry announced he had tweaked the bill to include college campuses in Texas as well.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott designated the issue of sanctuary cities as an emergency, allowing lawmakers in both chambers to take up the issue faster. And on Wednesday, Abbott made good on his earlier threats and cut off state funding for Travis County over a new “sanctuary” policy implemented by Sheriff Sally Hernandez.

Hundreds are expected to testify on Senate Bill 4 at Thursday’s committee hearing.

Abbott Proposes Removing any Officeholder who “Promotes Sanctuary Cities”

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that he and state lawmakers will pursue legislation that would “remove from office any officeholder who promotes sanctuary cities,” raising a new consequence as Republicans crack down on local officials who do not fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Abbott is threatening to cut off state funding to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez after she announced Friday she would reduce her department’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities when they request an inmate be flagged for possible deportation. If she continues with the policy, Abbott suggested a more serious punishment.

“We will remove her from office,” Abbott said in an interview on Fox News.

It was not immediately clear how legislation would remove Hernandez from office. She won her election last year. Sanctuary cities opponents view such officials’ immigration policies as a violation of their oaths of office.

The Fox News interview appears to be the first time Abbott has suggested officials like Hernandez could lose their jobs under sanctuary cities legislation. Abbott is expected to prioritize the legislation in his State of the State address on Tuesday.

Hernandez’s office did not have an immediate comment on Abbott’s remarks. The governor’s comments, however, quickly drew ire from other Democrats, with the state party saying in a statement that Abbott was “launching a new assault on the will of Texans.”

“I don’t know how the governor would suggest to do that,” state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said at a news conference that was called to push back on sanctuary cities legislation. “Typically people are elected by the voters. Democracy, in fact, works.”

“And unless the governor wants to be king and remove people from office unilaterally, then I think the people of Travis County will have an opportunity to speak on the sheriff, the governor and all other elected officials when they stand for re-election,” Anchia added.

By the end of Wednesday morning, the Texas Senate GOP caucus released a letter, signed by all 20 GOP senators, backing up Abbott in his showdown with Hernandez. The letter did not address Abbott’s proposal to remove officials like her, but told Hernandez her policy “is a reckless and blatant political stunt that not only prohibits law enforcement officers from doing their job, but also jeopardizes the safety of the citizens of Travis County.”

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.

Read more:

  • Abbott demanded Monday that Hernandez reverse her new policy or lose state dollars.
  • Hernandez announced Friday her office would scale back its cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Six Years after First Attempt, Fight over Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill has Changed

Bills targeting “sanctuary cities” failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011 and 2015, but similar efforts this session have better chances of making it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The Legislature is gearing up for a fight over “sanctuary cities” bills — and not for the first time. The current debate was foreshadowed by one in 2011, but this time, chances are better that a bill could make it to Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk.

Texas’ proposed 2011 ban on sanctuary cities, the common term for local entities that don’t enforce federal immigration laws, would have authorized local police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they arrested or detained. It led to fears that immigrants wouldn’t report crimes and that officers could detain people based solely on skin color and turn them over to federal immigration officers.

“Texas Can Do Better” and “No Arizona Hate” were common mantras from critics of the legislation that reverberated around the State Capitol in 2011 — references to a controversial Arizona bill that expanded the immigration enforcement powers of local law enforcement and passed that state’s legislature in 2010.

The plan, marked as an emergency item by then-Gov. Rick Perry, failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011, and similar legislation died in the Texas Senate in 2015. As expected, Republicans are taking another crack at passing a bill this year, and Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have labeled the issue a “legislative priority.”

Bills filed in both chambers — Senate Bill 4 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and House Bill 889 by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth — would allow local police to enforce immigration laws, but only if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish governments if their law enforcement agencies — specifically county jails — fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for sheriffs to hand over immigrants in their custodies for possible deportation. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.

This time around, one border Democrat has conceded that he could support the detainer component of the current proposals, especially if it means it will keep more extreme measures at bay.

Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said data from ICE and testimony from county sheriffs earlier this year shows that county jail compliance isn’t the issue Republicans make it out to be.

“We had hearings, and all 254 counties [in Texas] were cooperating with ICE,” Rodríguez said, referring to out-of-session meetings held last year. “So if it [only has a detainer provision], nobody has a problem with that, as far as I can tell.”

The ICE component of the legislation has become a major focus for Republicans, especially after Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez drew Abbott’s ire in 2014 after she said she would cooperate with ICE only on a case-by-case basis. New Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez added to the controversy when she was she was running for office last year, saying she wouldn’t cooperate with ICE. Valdez later said she had been taken out of context, but state officials had already jumped on the comments.

A Texas Tribune analysis of ICE data shows that Texas counties weren’t the main offenders when it came to denying federal requests. Only 146 of the country’s 18,646 declined ICE detainers between January 2014 and September 2015 came from Texas jails. Travis County was at the top of the list with 72, while Bexar County had 11. Valdez’s Dallas County Jail declined only two, according to the data. And two of Texas’ largest border counties – Webb and Hidalgo – recorded three, while El Paso County only recorded one. (A spokeswoman for the Webb County Jail said it didn’t deny those requests — the inmates were transferred to another county where they also faced charges.)

Though the legislation doesn’t apply to a person that is detained because they are a victim of or witness to a crime, Rodríguez said he still has concerns about the bill because it’s written so broadly that it opens the door to police enforcement.

“It’s consistent with an interpretation that their intent is to have local police ask about immigration status,” he said. “Because on the other hand, what they’re saying is that if you have a so-called sanctuary city that prohibits them from inquiring, they are going to be penalized and sanctioned with loss of funds. So obviously those two combined together suggests [they] want people to be checked.”

Sen. Perry’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story. But Geren said it’s too early in the process to predict what the final bill will look like and said he is willing to talk to anyone who has concerns about the legislation.

“We haven’t vetted it through the committee process at this point,” he said. “I want to work with law enforcement to make sure that we’re not discouraging people from coming forward, so there is a still a lot to talk about.”

Geren was adamant that sheriffs needed to comply with ICE detainers.

“That’s a large portion of the bill that we want to pass. But obviously there are some sheriffs that have said that they are not going to do it, and that causes a problem,” he said. “But I understand that some of the rural counties, where ICE is not in the jail every day, could be a financial burden to do it.”

Lawmakers could also face some pushback from the business community because of a provision in the bill that permits a person to file a complaint with the attorney general if they think that a local government isn’t following the provisions of the bill.

“If you are a sheriff and I am running against you, all I have to do is to allege you are doing something nefarious, as I read the legislation, and then the [attorney general] has the authority to open an investigation,” said Bill Hammond, the former CEO and president of the Texas Association of Business and current president of consulting firm Bill Hammond and Associates. “I stand to be corrected, but a mere allegation not being substantiated could trigger and probably would trigger an investigation of an incumbent. That’s bad politics.”

Related Tribune coverage:

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

MARCHFEST 728X90