AUSTIN, TX - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday signed a law targeting so-called "sanctuary cities." It allows police to ask about a person's immigration status and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don't cooperate with federal authorities.
Abbott, a Republican in his first term, took the unusual step of signing the bill on Facebook with no advanced public notice. Critics claim that was done to avoid protests.
Senate Bill 4 cleared a final hurdle last week in the Republican-controlled Legislature over objections from Democrats and immigrant rights supporters who've packed the Texas Capitol. They call it a "show-me-your-papers" measure that will be used to discriminate against Latinos.
The term "sanctuary cities" has no legal definition but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the U.S. illegally.
The Texas bill allows police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain, a situation that can range from arrest for a crime to being stopped for a traffic violation. It also requires local officials to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation.
Abbott said Texas residents expect lawmakers to "keep us safe" and said similar laws have already been tested in federal court.
"Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State," he said.
Opponents have already been hinting the bill will be immediately challenged and some protests are expected Monday. Every major police chief in Texas opposed the bill.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was quick to criticize the legislature and law, saying it puts politics ahead of safety.
“What this really is is a show me your papers law designed to racially profile and intimidate a segment of society and it’s gonna make our job tougher because they are gonna be less likely to call 911 and frankly less likely to send their child to school,” Jenkins said.
Earlier this year Dallas County Commissioners declared the county a “Welcoming Community.” The non-binding resolution called on law enforcement to end non-essential cooperation with federal immigration agencies.