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Government/Politics

Sanctuary City Ban Passes Out Of Committee, Bill Fast-tracked For Full Senate Vote

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Ryan Poppe
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Law enforcement groups  don’t agree on how a bill banning sanctuary cities would affect public safety in Texas, they weighed in during a hearing in Austin that was interrupted by some protesters.

Emotions ran high in a Senate hearing as immigrant rights advocates interrupted testimony on Sen. Charles Perry’s bill that bans sanctuary cities, and security officers escorted the protesters out.

Perry’s bill would take money away from local law enforcement departments that don’t ask about a person’s immigration status during when the person is stopped, even if it’s for something as minor like a traffic violation.   The bill would also allow the Texas Attorney General to review a police department’s policies on addressing immigration issues if someone complains, and that could lead to the governor stripping the local agency of state and federal law enforcement grants.

“There clearly will be economic costs to those who chose not to comply with SB 4 once passed, but the real cost will be continuing to foster, nuture and encourage the contempt or the culture of contempt for our legal system and laws contained within is the loss of public trust," Perry said.

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Credit Ryan Poppe
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But San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told lawmakers the bill would require his officers to undergo expensive training  the city can’t afford so they could act as federal immigration agents.  He said the legislation could also expose officers to discrimination lawsuits.

“It opens all types of opportunities of racial profiling because what else would you base your assumption on that a person is not here legally," McManus explained.

State Sen. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, echoed  McManus’ concerns.

“The bill removes the immunity from counties and cities and so it makes them civilly liable for a lawsuit.  That’s something we don’t do around here," Menendez said.

Sen. Perry, the bill’s author disagreed.

“I have more trust and faith that officers won’t abuse what you perceive the abuses may be.  But I also have confidence that if we have a law that applies to everyone equally then we won’t have discussion about different elements of our society feeling unsafe because they know with confidence that the standards are the same for all," Perry said.

Jackson County Sheriff  Andy Louderback disagreed with Chief McManus and threw his support behind the bill.  Louderback heads up the Texas Sheriffs Association.

“If we release criminal aliens who have federal issues no Texas sheriff should want to let those folks out into their community without due process from the federal side.  And that’s the heart of the bill here is to honor federal detainers so that in our jail system we don’t release anyone and they commit a heinous crime," Louderback said.

The sanctuary cities ban is being fast tracked since Gov. Greg Abbott’s made it an emergency item.  Senate Republicans hearing testimony voted the bill out of committee late in the night.  The bill now awaits full senate vote, which could happen next week.