Texas backs tough sanctuary city ban as federal push stalls

Image via Facebook/@VictoriaforTexas

Texas state representative Victoria Neave is going on a four-day hunger strike to protest a Texas House bill that targets sanctuary cities.

Republicans and Democratic leaders continue to introduce new amendments to the bill in an effort to soften it. Democrats who oppose SB 4 wore black in protest to the capitol as they debated the bill, but were overwhelmingly outnumbered.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas House approved a strict ban on "sanctuary cities" Thursday, empowering local police to enforce federal immigration law against anyone they detain and threatening police chiefs and sheriffs who refuse to do so with jail.

The bill's already made it past the Texas Senate, and will be voted on by the House on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump's January executive order on immigration that would have withheld federal funds from cities deemed sanctuary cities. Houston's police chief has said that already the number of Hispanics reporting rape in that city is down 43 percent from a year ago, and that reporting of other violent crimes saw a 13 percent dip during that same time.

Neave's decision to fast until at least Wednesday, when the House could vote on the bill, is inspired by Cesar Chavez.

"The bill does not target or discriminate against illegal immigrants".

Geren, however, said the bill wasn't discriminatory because it targeted criminals, not members of a particular racial or ethnic group.

The Texas House proposal originally allowed local law enforcement officers to inquire about federal immigration status only if someone is arrested.

Should the legislation pass, cities, counties and universities will not be able to stop authorities from asking about an individual's immigration status, or enforcing immigration laws.

Debate in the House began at 9 a.m. and there were over 180 proposed amendments by House Democrats.

Nearly every amendment and procedural maneuver proposed by Democrats was defeated by a similar tally. He spoke for about ten minutes, uninterrupted, and retraced the Legislature's and state's track record on discriminatory laws or policies targeting Latinos that have been argued in federal courts.

The bill also keeps in a place a class a misdemeanor punishment for law enforcement agents who don't hold undocumented immigrants as requested by federal and immigration agents. Many sheriffs and police chiefs in heavily Democratic areas warn that it will make their jobs harder if immigrant communities, including crime victims and witnesses, become afraid of police.

"This is a show-me-your-papers law". After repeated attempts from Democrats to kill the amendment via procedure - and a request from Republican Representative Charlie Geren, the bill's author, to vote the amendment down - a coalition led by the House's Freedom Caucus shoved the amendment through.

Gov. Greg Abbott has voiced his support for SB 4.

The bill now goes back to the upper chamber, where senators have the option to accept the changes the House made or call for a conference committee in which members from both chambers iron out the differences.

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