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Government/Politics

Senate Approves Sanctuary Cities Ban

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Ryan Poppe
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Sen. Charles Perry, Lubbock-R, lays out Senate Bill 4

The Texas Senate has approved legislation to ban sanctuary cities.  The bill heads to the Texas House once senators give it final approval.

Debate on Lubbock Republican Charles Perry’s bill was heated, ending with a vote along party lines, 20 Senate Republicans for it, 11 Democrats against. 

The bill denies state grant money to jurisdictions where police refuse federal requests to hand over immigrants already in custody for possible deportation. An amendment added to the bill Tuesday would allow the state to remove a county sheriff from office for refusing to honor federal detention requests

Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio said the bill is unconstitutional.

“What’s at stake here is its discriminatory effect, the discriminatory effect that it’s going to have  on the people in my district and in the State of Texas,” Uresti told the bill’s author.

Uresti and other Senate Democrats claim the bill would make Hispanics targets of racial profiling during traffic stops and when they’re being booked into jail.

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Credit Ryan Poppe
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Perry says his bill simply seeks to require cooperation with federal immigration officials.

“What’s at stake here is the rule of law, what’s at stake here is inconsistency applying laws across this country and across this state.  People believe that laws are applied to differently to different groups for different reasons based on the elected official of the day,” Perry explained.

The legislation may not get a big welcome from the Texas House.  Some Republican representatives there have concerns.  Lyle Larson of San Antonio wants to make sure local police officers could use their own discretion in deciding when to ask about a person’s immigration status.

“There have been times when I’m riding with police officers, they do have discretion on what they enforce, they look at their time on the beat and if they arrest someone for a petty crime, it takes two hours out of a particular area,” Larson said.

Rep. Charlie Geren, a Republican from Tarrant County,  has his own sanctuary cities bill, and says there’s no rush in the House to adopt the Senate version.

“We’ve got House bills to hear before senate bills and the senate, they’re going to have bills over here this week I understand, that doesn’t make them go to the top of the list and we’ll get to the senate bills when it’s time to get to them,” Geren said.

The Senate moved quickly to adopt the sanctuary cities ban after Gov. Greg Abbott designated it an emergency item.  It’s unlikely action will be taken as quickly on the other side of the Capitol.