Controversial legislation that would ban sanctuary cities in Texas passed its first major hurdle in the Texas Senate Tuesday night.
It’s expected to go to the house tomorrow, but there was one change added to the bill Tuesday that could affect any elected official who defies the ban.
The bill has always set out to punish local agencies for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities by withholding state grant money.
Now, the bill would also make it a crime for an elected official to implement any sanctuary city policies.
The bill’s author, State Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock, insists the bill isn’t an over-reach by the state into federal immigration enforcement territory.
It allows local officers to ask people about their immigration status when they are detained, but Perry says it does not give police the power to seek out undocumented immigrants on their own.
Some questioned why a sanctuary cities ban would even be necessary, pointing to numbers that show few departments in Texas ignore requests from immigration authorities.
However, the newly elected Travis County Sheriff promised to reduce cooperation on immigration holds in the local jail.
Governor Gregg Abbott fired back, calling for her removal from office.
Tuesday night, there appeared to be a move in that direction.
Lawmakers adopted an amendment to the bill, which would make it a criminal misdemeanor for an elected or appointed official to approve a sanctuary city policy.
Other amendments by Senate democrats to exclude college campus police departments from this bill failed.
It has to pass a third reading in the Senate Wednesday before going to the house.
The house passed a similar bill last session that ultimately failed in the Senate.
Governor Greg Abbott says this time the legislation is one of his emergency items.
President Trump has also said this issue would be one his administration would tackle on the federal level.