The Texas House of Representatives has given tentative approval of a bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities. The chamber passed Senate Bill 4 early Thursday morning after about 16 hours of debate on a 93-54 vote. The bill would penalize jurisdictions that limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests.
During the 16-hour debate, lawmakers passed an amendment to the bill that would allow local law enforcement officials to inquire about an individual’s immigration status upon detainment, rather than strictly after an individual has been arrested. The bill would also allow for the removal of police chiefs or sheriffs for not honoring detainer requests.
“The bill carries stiff civil penalties for local entities who enact sanctuary city policies and allows the removal from office sheriffs, police chiefs who refuse to comply with immigration detainer requests,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), explained early on in the House debate.
Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) recounted in explicit details the racism he encountered as a Latino, but said he still supports the measure.
“This is a common-sense bill,” he said. “It just says this, ‘If you are here and you are undocumented and you have violated some law and been detained or been arrested, we’re going to send you back to your community.’”
However, both Geren and Villalba voted against the controversial amendment from Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), which skews closer to the bill’s original Senate language. That amendment, which drew impassioned testimony from Democrat lawmakers over the course of five hours, allows law enforcement to request the immigration status of any individual during detainment, rather than after a suspect is arrested.
“It just ensures that once a person is now being detained, or they have been arrested lawfully … and they learn that this person, for instance, has a federal detainer, that they can honor that,” Schaefer said of his amendment.
Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) 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. Schaefer said that was a possibility under his amendment.
Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) spoke about being a victim of sexual assault and how she felt this amendment would silence future victims.
“We aren’t trying to exaggerate when we say the people in the shadows will be in the shadows more,” Gonzalez said.
Geren, Villalba and seven other Republican representatives voted against Schaefer’s amendment in the 81-64 vote.