DENTON, Texas – The sanctuary city bill has quickly become a hot-button topic. It's been updated to include college campuses, a move hitting home at universities in North Texas.
This week, Gov. Greg Abbott labeled the issue of sanctuary cities an emergency, enabling lawmakers to address it sooner. Thursday’s hearing had stretched into an eighth-hour by late afternoon. More than 450 people signed up to testify.
Prior to the hearing, hundreds of students from the University of North Texas and Texas Women's University, marched for their schools to become sanctuary campuses in Denton. With sanctuary status, the local authorities don’t fully enforce federal immigration laws.
Despite petitions and protests, administrators at both schools say neither is a sanctuary campus.
At the time of the protests, Abbott tweeted: “Texas will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities. I will cut funding for any state campus if it establishes a sanctuary status.”
The current bill would allow local and campus police to enforce immigration laws. If cities or campuses fail to comply, they would lose their funding.
“The safety of the students should be first,” said Teresa Aguayo, a senior at UNT, who is disappointed by the bill. “If you truly do see the students all as equals, you should try to protect your students from being deported on campus.”
President of the Hispanic Student Association at UNT, Aguayo said she has many undocumented family and friends who obey the law and pay taxes.
“I think it’s really unfair,” she said. “It’s really discriminatory that they’re being accused of being lazy, and they don’t pay taxes and they don’t contribute to this country when they do.”
UNT senior David Lopez helped draft the petition sent to campus administrators with the student body’s demands. He said the fight isn’t over.
“There is still work to be done and we’re not gonna back down either,” Lopez said. “Immigration is a huge part of Texas history, as well as United States history. By doing that, politically speaking, they’re isolating future voters.”
He said the bill sends a message that some people aren’t wanted here.
“Greg Abbott does not stand for the values that we as a campus hold and that soon the majority of Texas will hold," he said. “I think he’s on the losing side of history, really.”
It's history that continues to be made.