The Texas House of Representatives voted 93-54 Thursday night to pass a measure banning sanctuary cities which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the state. Alarmingly, the measure also gives law enforcement the power to demand to see the immigration status of anyone they detain—whether or not they are arrested or ever charged with a crime.
The bill, SB 4, essentially forces local jurisdictions to comply with immigrant detainer requests issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A version of the measure was approved by the Texas State Senate in early February.
During a marathon debate session, lawmakers grappled with a provision which would allow local law enforcement officers to request the immigration status not just of those they arrest, but of all detainees, which could include people stopped for simple offenses like jaywalking. Critics have insisted that this will lead to racial profiling in a state where nearly 40% of the population is Latinx. While initially dropped from the House’s bill, one state lawmaker added the provision back as an amendment which, after considerable legislative wrangling, was pushed through by the House’s Freedom Caucus members, the Dallas Observer reported.
“We aren’t exaggerating when we say that the people who will be empowered by this amendment will be the criminals,” Democratic Rep. Mary Gonzalez told WFAA. “We’re not exaggerating...when we say the people who will feel the biggest effects of this are the most vulnerable, the women, the children, the survivors of sexual assault, rape, human traffickers, the people who will feel the disconnect from law enforcement, the people who are supposed to make them safe.”
By allowing police to demand the immigration status of detainees, the measure moves Texas toward a version of Arizona’s infamous (and now largely de-fanged) SB1070—the so-called“papers please” bill which allowed local law enforcement to request the citizenship status of anyone an officer deemed might be an undocumented immigrant during the course of an arrest or detention.
SB4 comes as Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has made attacking sanctuary cities, most notably Austin, a priority for his administration. In January, the Republican declared banning them “an emergency item,” allowing lawmakers to begin crafting legislation to that effect immediately.
Texas lawmakers must now reconcile the House and Senate versions of SB4 before presenting it to Gov. Abbott for his almost-certain signature.