The Texas House of Representatives is expected to vote on a measure to support immigration enforcement and eliminate sanctuary policies anytime in the next coming weeks. Sanctuary policies prohibit or restrict law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, allowing criminal aliens to live and work freely in communities. The House Committee on State Affairs voted 7 to 5 to pass the measure, Senate Bill (SB) 4, last Wednesday. The Senate passed SB 4 in February.
SB 4 prohibits sanctuary policies that impede immigration enforcement efforts and requires law enforcement to fully comply with detainers. A detainer is a request from ICE to a state or local law enforcement agency to maintain custody of an alien for no more than 48 hours so that federal officials may assume custody for the purpose of removal from the United States. Detainers may also request state and local law enforcement simply notify ICE an alien is about to be released. Federal officers only issue detainers for aliens arrested on criminal charges for whom officials have probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States.
Additionally, SB 4 makes sanctuary cities liable for harm caused by an official’s refusal to comply with an ICE detainer by waiving sovereign immunity if such case were to occur. The measure also imposes criminal liability on elected officials who intentionally or knowingly violate the measure.
Governor Greg Abbott made clear that one of his priorities this year is to eliminate sanctuary cities in the state and has thrown his support behind SB 4. Governor Abbott has already promised to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, including Travis County which includes the City of Austin. Travis County has repeatedly topped the list of jurisdictions refusing to comply with greatest number of detainers, reported by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Once passed by the House, differences between each chamber’s versions must be reconciled in conference committee.
Texas has been on the front lines of the illegal immigration issue, including the recent border surge of unaccompanied alien minors and family units from Central America. The Obama administration’s proactive dismantling of immigration enforcement nationwide over the previous eight years has forced many states to take action to discourage illegal immigration to their regions.