Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared open season on sanctuary cities, stating his intention to eliminate them from his state in the coming year.
Abbott's remarks came during his "State of the State" address to the Texas State Legislature on Tuesday. There, the the Republican governor urged his legislative colleagues to ban sanctuary cities, designating the push as an emergency item—a classification which would allow lawmakers to fast track the measure within the first two months of the new legislative session, the Houston Chronicle explained.
"Senator Perry, this is the session where we will ban sanctuary cities in Texas," Abbott said, addressing Republican State Senator Charles Perry, who has submitted a bill designed to force local police agencies into compliance with federal law enforcement requests. "I am declaring this an emergency item so you can get to work on it tomorrow."
Abbott's statement comes in the midst of a heated debate with Travis County, TX, Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has stated she will not comply with warrantless requests to hold undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal authorities, unless they've been arrested for serious crimes, such as murder. According to MySanAntonio.com, Hernandez' sanctuary policy is slated to go into effect this week.
"The public must be confident that local law enforcement is focused on local public safety," Hernandez explained. "Not on federal immigration enforcement."
In a letter sent to Hernandez on January 23, Abbott said the soon-to-be implemented sanctuary policy "betrays your oath [of office] and the residents of Travis County. Abbott also suggested state funds—particularly a $1.8 million dollar grant to Travis County from Texas's Criminal Justice Division—could be at risk, should the policy go forward.
This is not, in fact, Abbott's first time fighting with local law enforcement officials over sanctuarycCities. In 2015, he demanded that Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez rescind Dallas' sanctuary city policies. In a letter send in October of that year, Abbott declared that "sanctuary cities […] will no longer be tolerated in Texas."
This latest clash between Abbott and Hernandez comes amidst President Donald Trump's harsh immigration crackdown, which includes the targeting of sanctuary cities nationwide. In measures unveiled last week, Trump threatened to pull federal funds for cities which do not comply with Federal immigration policies, and announced plans to publicly list crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in those communities.
Despite Abbott's bluster at this week's state of the state address, some Texas officials joined their colleagues across the country to stand up against this looming assault on sanctuary cities. Last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared in no uncertain terms that "Houston is, and always has been, a welcoming city, where we value and appreciate diversity."
"[The Houston Police Department] is not the Immigration and Naturalization Service," Turner continued. "We don’t profile, and we are not going to start profiling people to determine whether they are here illegally. It hasn’t happened under previous mayors, and it will not happen under my administration."