Texas stokes immigration debate with ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

The fallout began Monday after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a ban on so-called sanctuary cities on Sunday.

Abbott says the law will help fulfill a duty to keep “dangerous criminals off our streets”.

“The reason why so many people come to America is because we are the nation of laws”, he said, seconds after dotting his signature on Senate Bill 4 on Facebook Live. “This racist and wrongheaded piece of legislation ignores our values, imperils our communities and sullies our reputation as a free and welcoming state”.

The law requires law enforcement agencies in Texas to cooperate with federal immigration authorities who request illegal immigrants be detained until they can be picked up.

One provision under the law that takes effect September 1, allows local and state law enforcement officers to ask people they stop to prove they are in the USA legally.

Though the bill, which cleared the Republican-controlled legislature last week, was opposed by most major police chiefs in Texas, Abbott said in a statement that the law was a blow against “those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas”.

Texas does not now have any cities which have formally declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

“I am disappointed, because this is not in the best interest of public safety”, she said in the statement.

On Monday, the state of Texas sued Travis County to enforce US immigration law.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Republican state Representative Charlie Geren, said in a House of Representatives debate the bill would have no effect on immigrants in the country without documentation if they had not committed a crime.

The is a wide array of critics including some Police Chiefs who “depend on the cooperation of immigrants, legal or not” to assist them in solving crimes. Saenz said the law will subject people to widespread racial profiling as it is created to alienate “nearly half the state population”.

In fact, protesters did show up at the governor’s mansion on Sunday, shouting, “Here to stay”, and waving a banner that read, “Abbott is a racist”.

Opponents of the Texas law claim it will alienate the immigrant community from law enforcement and subject citizens of Hispanic origin to racial profiling. The law threatens the peace officers with jail time, slams municipalities with steep fines and removes uncooperative elected officials from office. The law takes effect on September 1.

If immigration agents obtain a judicial warrant or file criminal charges against a suspected undocumented immigrant, Texas police will arrest them.

The ACLU and other groups have also pledged to fight Texas in court over the law signed Sunday by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

“This law cracks down on policies like the Travis County sheriff, who declared that she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes”, Abbott said in the broadcast. It’s an argument that the governor, the architects of the law and proponents of the ban have been making; if unauthorized immigrants aren’t detained in time, they could go on to commit more risky crimes, they argue.

Group protesting the SB 4 law on Monday