AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – In a Facebook livestream on Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill that bans ‘sanctuary cities’ in Texas. The Texas Legislature passed the bill on Wednesday. Senate Bill 4 requires local government entities and law enforcement officials to comply with federal immigration laws and detainer requests.
The bill also creates criminal penalties for entities that do not enforce the law.
In a statement, Abbott said:
“As Governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets. It’s inexcusable to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domestic violence and robbery. There are deadly consequences to not enforcing the law, and Texas has now become a state where those practices are not tolerated. With this bill, we are doing away with those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas.”
The bill cleared its final hurdle this week in the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, over objections from Democrats and immigrant rights supporters who packed the Texas Capitol. The term ‘sanctuary cities’ has no legal definition, but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects who are in the U.S. illegally.
Republicans argued that such a bill is needed to ensure that local jails honor requests from federal officials to keep dangerous offenders behind bars. “Let’s face it, the reason why so many people come to America is because we are a nation of laws,” said Abbott, “and Texas is doing its part to keep it that way.”
However, every major police chief in Texas has opposed the bill including those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, San Antonio, Houston and Austin. Texas does not currently have any cities which have formally declared themselves as ‘sanctuaries’ for immigrants.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins did not hold anything back after hearing news of the bill being signed. He believes that this could have a chilling effect on the willingness of immigrants to work with law enforcement. “The result of this law is going to be,” Jenkins said, “it’s going to drive people to report less crime, and we’re already seeing that in places in Texas.”
“It’s a huge problem,” Jenkins continued. “We rely on the public to give us information and, when people are afraid to call 911, when they’re afraid to cooperate and tell us what they’ve seen because they themselves are worried that their papers are not going to be in order, it makes our jobs exponentially tougher, and that makes everyone less safe.”
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn disagreed. “If somebody is reporting a crime, if they are a witness to a crime or they are a victim of the crime, the law says we are not to be asking them immigration questions,” he explained in response to concerns raised by Jenkins. “I understand his frustrations, where he might be frustrated. But this law, if Dallas County operates which I think they are, if they operate within those ICE detainers and they are honoring those, then nothing really changes.”
Abbott’s spokesman, John Wittman, said that they chose to sign the bill on a Facebook livestream because that is “where most people are getting their news nowadays.”
The new law goes into effect on September 1. Jenkins said that, in the meantime, Dallas County will work to present the DFW area as a place that welcomes everyone.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)