Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Texas police may soon act more like federal immigration enforcers

Texas Senate passes bill requiring school bus seat belts Texas police may soon act more like federal immigration enforcers
Melissa Porter | 28 April, 2017, 07:55

Members of the Texas House of Representatives are in for a lengthy - and heated - debate Wednesday as they take up Senate bill 4, a ban on so-called "sanctuary cities".

The bill does not allow police chiefs to discourage officers from inquiring about a person's immigration status during a traffic stop or other routine detention.

After 15 hours of debate on the House floor of the Texas Legislature, a strict ban was approved for "Sanctuary Cities".

The version of the bill passed by the house is considerably stronger than the proposal brought to the floor.

The Texas House bill originally would have allowed local law enforcement officers to inquire about federal immigration status if someone is arrested.

The Texas bill, SB 4 passed the state Senate in February.

It lets Texas withhold funding from local governments for acting as sanctuary cities, even as the Trump administration's efforts to do so nationally have been blocked in federal court.

Earlier in the day, Democrats spent the day arguing the bill is not needed because there is no municipality in Texas that is considered a sanctuary city.

According to the Texas Observer, hundreds protested in the Capitol rotunda, where their chants opposing the legislation could be heard during the marathon debate.

Rene Oliveira, a Democratic representative from the border city of Brownsville, said the bill has sent a chill through immigrant communities anxious that even people in the United States legally can be picked up by police for minor infractions and subject to a process aimed at deportation. Officials there dispute that they're breaking the law, but Gov. Abbott stripped the county of some $1.5 million in state funds in retaliation.

Sheriffs warn the bill could make their jobs harder if immigrant communities-including crime victims and witnesses-fear the police.

The measure also includes provisions to protect against discrimination and ensure law enforcement act within the bounds of federal law. Austin City Councilman Greg Casar derided the bill as a "racist" attack on Hispanics and immigrants and said opponents will immediately challenge the law in the courts.

Most law enforcement agencies in the state strongly opposed the bill and testified that it would erode public trust, making communities less safe. She said she's received hate mail telling her to "die" and "starve".

San Antonio Rep. Diego Bernal questioned Schaefer about how his amendment could make simple interactions with law enforcement lead to an immigration check, asking if someone could be detained for speeding.

The bill comes as Republican U.S. President Donald Trump has made combating illegal immigration a priority.

"(The bill) is about upholding the rule of law and keeping our community safe from real criminals who are threats to other law-abiding Texans and who also happen to be in our country illegally", Geren said during the bill's committee hearing last month. Democrats met behind closed doors twice to debate whether to accept offers from the Republicans in which they would give up numerous amendments they had planned in exchange for the House avoiding votes on Schaefer's measure and potentially on other conservative-driven amendments.