You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Texas House considers limiting reach of ‘sanctuary cities’ bill


Highlights

A change narrows the bill’s focus to those arrested, not just detained.

The bill still maintains harsh penalties for local officials and jurisdictions that adopt “sanctuary” policies.

The bill passed the Texas Senate last month on a party-line vote.

A Texas House committee is considering significant changes to a bill aimed at banning so-called sanctuary cities — local jurisdictions that decline in some way to participate in federal immigration enforcement — that could limit the reach of the legislation.

A new version of Senate Bill 4 that was considered by the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday would alter the bill’s prohibition on sheriff and police departments adopting policies that prevent officers from inquiring about subjects’ immigration status. The change by the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, would only prohibit agencies from barring their officers from getting involved in immigration issues with people who have been arrested, and not merely detained, a broader category that includes anyone pulled over for a minor traffic violation.

While the tweak might temper some of the concerns raised by critics of the bill who say it will lead to racial profiling, Geren has maintained many of the Senate version’s harshest provisions, including ones creating a criminal offense for law enforcement officials who adopt sanctuary policies and stiff financial penalties for their agencies.

The El Paso Times first reported on proposed changes by Geren, who chairs the House Administration Committee and is a top ally of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

The original version was authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and approved by the Senate last month in a 20-11 party-line vote. In addition to ensuring local officers could tackle immigration issues, it aimed to ban local jails from declining to honor federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detainers,” which are requests to extend the detention of inmates suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 48 hours for possible deportation proceedings.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has instituted the state’s only county policy limiting a jail’s cooperation with federal ICE detainer requests, has become the face of the debate. Gov. Greg Abbott has already pulled back millions of dollars in state funding to Travis County in retaliation for her new policy, in which the county only honors detainer requests for inmates suspected of serious crimes such as murder and rape.

Abbott has made banning sanctuary cities one of his four “emergency items” for the current legislative session. He and other Republicans who back such a measure say it is needed to preserve the “rule of law” and to prevent unauthorized immigrants from committing crimes against U.S. citizens. They have gotten a boost from the election of President Donald Trump, who regularly points to crimes committed by immigrants as justification for his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to crack down on sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds.

Studies have shown, however, that immigrant communities typically have lower crime rates than the overall U.S. population.

As was the case when the Senate considered the measure, hundreds of people signed up to testify at Wednesday’s House hearing on SB 4, and a vast majority of them opposed it. Those who spoke against the bill Wednesday included Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin, several unauthorized immigrants and top law enforcement officials from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

Brian Manley, Austin’s interim police chief, said the bill would hurt public safety by eroding ties between the Police Department and immigrant communities, potentially making it less likely that crime victims and witnesses would come forward.

“We’ve worked so hard to build this trust,” Manley said. “I’m proud to be able to say, ‘If you see this patch and this badge, we’re focused on your safety, not your immigration status.’ (The bill) would take away from the ability to do that.”

Many of the bill’s critics testified Wednesday that they approved of Geren’s changes but still opposed the overall measure.

“I must say that we are gladdened and encouraged by the proposals that Chairman Geren has made in the proposed language,” said Gerald Pruitt, a deputy city attorney for Fort Worth. Nevertheless, he said, his city still opposes SB 4 because of a provision that allows victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants in a sanctuary city to sue the jurisdiction for damages.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

THE FINAL FIVE: San Marcos city manager finalists are named
THE FINAL FIVE: San Marcos city manager finalists are named

The national search for San Marcos’ next city manager has produced five finalists — four of them relatively close to home. Strategic Government Resources, a firm hired to help the city with a nationwide search, received 55 applications from candidates in 21 states to succeed Jared Miller, who stepped down in January to become city...
EXCLUSIVE: Contract reveals final terms for Plaza Saltillo deal
EXCLUSIVE: Contract reveals final terms for Plaza Saltillo deal

Capital Metro would receive almost $19 million in rent over the first decade of what will be a century-long lease of the Plaza Saltillo tract in East Austin, according to a 400-page agreement the agency released to the American-Statesman this week under an open records request. The transit agency, which has owned the former rail yard just east of Interstate...
Man gets 40 years for Cedar Park break-in, assault attempt
Man gets 40 years for Cedar Park break-in, assault attempt

A man accused of trying to sexually assault a Cedar Park woman in a shower after breaking into her home in 2015 received two 40-year sentences Wednesday. Clarence Alexander Richardson, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit sexual assault, according to a plea agreement. District Judge Donna King sentenced...
Suitcase found in storage unit could lead to 99 years in prison
Suitcase found in storage unit could lead to 99 years in prison

A man who lost his storage unit in Round Rock after not paying rent on it left behind notebooks that could lead to him spending up to 99 years in prison, according to an arrest affidavit. Ryan Dene Kyle, 32, of Pflugerville, was charged Wednesday with fraudulent possession of identifying information, a first-degree felony. The notebooks were filled...
BREAKING: Austin police make third arrest in rape case involving group of women
BREAKING: Austin police make third arrest in rape case involving group of women

Austin police have arrested a third man accused of robbing and raping a group of women who sought to buy marijuana from them, Austin police officials confirmed Thursday.  Emmanuel Grear, 20, is now in custody. A fourth suspect is still at large, officials said.  Grear was arrested in Corpus Christi, acording to a report from KVUE-TV...
More Stories