A Senate version of a bill previous passed by the Texas House which would require cities and law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws by preventing local policies in conflict with federal US immigration laws – which trump state and local laws — and by establishing uniform, consistent standards for all Texas law enforcement agencies, was passed by the Senate State Affairs Committee and now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
The bill would withhold state money from local jurisdictions which do not turn over illegal immigrants in custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. It would allow police to enforce immigration laws if the officer is working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between the local and federal agency. It would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies fail to comply with detainer requests from ICE. The punishment would be a denial of state grant funds.
Republican Texas Gov. Wayne Abbott earlier ordered $1.5 million in state funds to be withheld from the Travis County Sheriff’s department when the newly elected Sheriff refused to comply with federal immigration detainers for illegal aliens in jails in Austin. Abbott warned that if the sheriff continued to disregard ICE detainers, he will consider withholding further funding.
“Some law enforcement officials in Texas are openly refusing to enforce existing law,” and “that is unacceptable,” Abbott said.
Implementing her new policy on dealing with ICE detention orders, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez — who promised during her campaign to reduce cooperation with ICE — said she will only comply with ICE detainers for illegal aliens if they’ve been arrested for committing violent crimes like murder and aggravated sexual assault.
According to county records, of the 71 illegal aliens booked into Travis County Jail in January, 27 were arrested for drunk driving, 12 for drug possession and 12 for assault on a family member.
Nearly 200 with ICE detainers under the sheriff’s new policy are being treated as ordinary citizens and can post bond and be back out on the streets, critics said.
Republican state Sen. Charles Perry, author of the bill, said local authorities must enforce federal immigration laws, saying, "This is not a deportation bill, this is a rule-of-law bill. We have almost a culture of contempt for federal immigration law … You don’t get to be chief judge and executioner on a local level based on your whims or political ideologues of the day.”
Throughout Texas, in predominately Democratic strongholds, both county sheriffs and police chiefs have opposed enforcing federal immigration laws and complying with ICE detainer requests.
Hispanic Republican Caucus member Rep. Jose Aliseda said when the Texas House passed the bill now before the full Senate, “the penalty for those that enact such policies is possible loss of state funding. As a legal Mexican immigrant who understands that the American dream must be protected, I was proud to support and vote for this legislation. The reality is that this bill simply puts Texas teeth on federal law which was signed by President Clinton in 1996.Texas voters in 2010 spoke loud and clear and the Texas House Republicans listened. Despite all the rhetoric, [this legislation is] good policy and good for Texas.”
Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chairman Steve Munisteri added, “The United States and Texas is a land of immigrants from a variety of backgrounds. This diversity is a strength of our country. However, it is important that immigration be legal so as to accomplish two major objectives. The first is fairness, so that people who play by the rules are not penalized and the second is a matter of national security. The RPT has as one of its major priorities, to pass legislation that helped address the illegal immigration and open border problem. We are grateful to the House leadership and our Republican representatives who passed this landmark piece of legislation as the first of what we hope to be many steps to provide a reasonable solution to this issue.”
Munisteri singled out former Texas Gov. Rick Perry “for his strong stance on this legislation, after naming it one of his emergency legislative items for [this] session [of the Texas legislature].”
Similarly, Abbott declared the issue of sanctuary jurisdictions in Texas to be an emergency in the state legislature requiring its immediate action which led to the bill’s passage by the House and the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio said, "[This law] undermines trust between police and immigrant communities. We risk further endangering women and children who fall prey to violence and extortion such as human trafficking.”
Opponents of the bill assert immigrant communities will not cooperate with law enforcement for fear of deportation.
Warning that ICE agents could be knocking on doors looking for illegal aliens, the central Texas teachers’ union, Education Austin, has began distributing a “Know Your Rights” immigration pamphlet to all schools within the Austin Independent School District which tells families what to do if ICE knocks on their doors.