- Sean Collins Walsh American-Statesman Staff
Broadcasting on Facebook Live from the Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday evening signed the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, the common term for local jurisdictions that decline in some way to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
“We all support legal immigration. It helped build America and Texas,” Abbott said. “But legal immigration is different from harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes. This law cracks down on policies like the Travis County sheriff who declared that she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes.”
Abbott was referencing Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who became the face of the battle over sanctuary cities after instituting a policy that limits when the Travis County jail cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests that help facilitate deportation proceedings for inmates suspected of being unauthorized immigrants. Her policy does honor such requests for inmates accused of the most serious offenses.
Senate Bill 4 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, bans policies like Hernandez’s and would allow her to be charged with a crime and removed from office for continuing to carry it out. The law also could impose fines up to $25,000 per day on the sheriff’s office.
Immediately after signing the bill, Abbott said, “Texas has now banned sanctuary cities.”
Abbott’s signing of the bill, which was one of his top four priorities for this legislative session, capped a bitter fight that has soured relationships within and between the parties.
Critics have said the bill is unconstitutional and plan to fight it in court. Since it passed the House following an emotional 16-hour debate, opponents of the bill have staged a series protests, including an all-day sit-in of a state office building used by the governor’s staff.
Abbott’s office gave little advance warning of the highly anticipated signing, which ensured that protesters could not disrupt it.
The five-minute Facebook Live video had been viewed tens of thousands of times as of Sunday evening.
“We’re going to where most people are getting their news nowadays and talking directly to them instead of speaking through a filter,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said of the decision to use the social media live-streaming service.