Austin, TX - The Republican-controlled House in the state of Texas decided to take matters into its own hands early Thursday morning when it approved a strict ban on 'sanctuary cities' and threatened to put police chiefs and sheriffs in jail if they don't comply.
The House's action was a welcome relief to the recent continuous attempts to block President Trump's promised immigration reform. The latest attempt involved a California federal judge issuing a 'preliminary' injunction against an executive order that had not been issued yet.
The House's vote came just before 3 AM, according to The Houston Chronicle. It followed over 15 hours of heated debate, some with literal tears from outnumbered Democratic representatives
The new bill allows the state of Texas to withhold funding from county and local governments for acting as sanctuary cities. Other Republican-led states are trying to get similar policies passed. The Texas bill is unique in that it is the first where police chiefs and other officials could be charged with a misdemeanor of official misconduct. They could also be removed from office for not helping enforce immigration law.
An agency or department that fails to follow the law could face a civil penalty of $1,500 for a first offense and a $25,000 civil penalty for any subsequent violation.
Republican Representative Charlie Geren, who sponsored the bill, said that it's needed to "keep the public safe and remove bad people from the street."
The bill's purpose is for local agencies to help federal agencies as part of a larger effort to 'crack down' on criminal immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Immigrants who are detained are included as well as those who are arrested. Needless to say, supporters of sanctuary cities were not happy.
Even the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops got involved and said in a tweet that they were disappointed that the bill allowed police to ask an immigrant about their status while they were being detained instead of just during an arrest.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared the issue of this lack of cooperation and sanctuary cities an "emergency." He said that the state is going to move forward with anti-sanctuary city laws, despite what happens on a national level.
Sheriff Sally Hernandez of Travis County, which includes liberal Austin, initially refused to honor federal requests to hold suspects for possible deportation if they weren't arrested for immigration offenses or serious offenses such as murder. Governor Abbott then cut grant funding to Travis County, and she decided that she would obey these laws.
Other sheriffs including San Antonio's Roland Gutierrez said that the bill could make their jobs harder if immigrants fear the police.
Democratic Representative Victoria Neave is staging a four-day fast in response to the bill's passage.
The Senate version is slightly different than the House version, and a compromise must be reached before the bill goes before the Governor.
Do you think that law enforcement administrators should be criminally liable if they refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.