As most sanctuary cities nationwide continue to defy President Donald Trump’s threats to their sanctuary status, Texas is taking steps to ensure the Lone Star state doesn’t contain any of those cities.
Trump’s executive order on immigration that would give the federal government authority to remove federal funding from sanctuary cities has already been challenged by an Obama-appointed judge, and will certainly face more politically-motivated obstruction in the future. States implementing their own sanctuary city policies make it impossible to fight Trump without also fighting those individual states, adding further layers to any potential legal fights.
There may be more to come – but today Texas just became the first state to ban sanctuary cities under President Trump.
According to Fox News, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Sunday prohibiting the state’s cities and counties from enacting so-called “sanctuary” laws that prevent local law enforcement officers from inquiring about the immigration status of anyone they detain.
Abbott took the unusual step of signing the bill on Facebook with no advanced public notice. He said Texas residents expect lawmakers to “keep us safe” and said similar laws have already been tested in federal court, where opponents have already been hinting the bill will be immediately challenged.
“Let’s face it, the reason why so many people come to America is because we are a nation of laws and Texas is doing its part to keep it that way,” Abbott said.
The timing of the signing caught Democratic lawmakers flatfooted. Democratic state Rep. Cesar Blanco said it looked like Abbott “wanted to get ahead” of any protests surrounding the bill signing. Abbott spokesman John Wittman said they chose to sign the bill on a Facebook livestream because that’s “where most people are getting their news nowadays.”
Republicans say the bill is needed to ensure local jails honor requests from federal officials to keep dangerous offenders behind bars.
The 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.
One of the bill’s most controversial provisions allows for criminal charges against city or county officials who intentionally refuse to comply with federal authorities’ attempt to deport people in the country illegally who already have been jailed on offenses unrelated to immigration. Elected officials could face up to a year in jail and lose their posts if convicted of official misconduct.
Colorado also banned sanctuary cities 2006 – but that law was repealed in 2013. Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee have also signed bills into law attempting to ban sanctuary policies, and Virginia attempted to but pulled the bill, facing a veto from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Texas could set off a wave in other states putting forward similar policies, with Florida, Louisiana, and Nevada expected to follow in Texas’ footsteps.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]