HOUSTON - Several Houstonians showed up at City Hall on Wednesday urging the mayor to sue the state over its upcoming sanctuary cities law.
It’s just the latest backlash this week against Senate Bill 4, which triggered protests and helped spark a scuffle between state lawmakers.
Many activists were able to speak face-to-face with Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City Council during the Public Speakers section of the weekly City Council meeting.
“Houston should be at the forefront of this issue because we are a great city, we are a welcoming city, and we should be the example for everyone in the state of Texas,” Abraham Espinosa, of Houston, told city leaders. “We should be the first ones to be the front of justice in our city.”
Senate Bill 4, which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on May 7, 2017 requires local police to comply with federal immigration authorities and lets officers ask about immigration status of people they detain.
Supporters say it’ll help keep dangerous criminals off the streets, but opponents worry it could lead to racial profiling.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has also expressed concern that fewer crime victims will report crimes and fewer witnesses will speak up.
On Wednesday, Mayor Turner told reporters because SB 4 doesn’t take effect until September 1, 2017 city staff will use the remaining time to review and analyze the bill, just as they do with all bills that pass the Texas House and Senate.
Turner says his staff will be looking to make sure the law is constitutional and falls in line with Supreme Court rulings.
“I know that there are other jurisdictions and organizations that have sued…so it’s not like anyone is just waiting on the city of Houston, but I’ll make the assessment, and I’ll do what I believe is in the best interest of the city of Houston,” said Turner. “That’s the only question I’m going to ask once we do our analysis: what’s in the best interest of this city and the people in this city?”
Turner said Wednesday there was no set timeline for deciding on whether to take legal action.
SB 4 has dominated headlines the week of Memorial Day. On Monday, during the last day of the Texas Legislative session, around 1,000 protestors, including roughly 100 Houstonians, filled the State Capitol holding signs and chanting against the bill.
That protest sparked a shoving match and threats on the House floor after Rep. Matt Rinaldi told a group of Hispanic lawmakers he called immigration agents on some of the protestors.