Houstonians react to new sanctuary cities law

Taking a look at the local reactions to the banning of Texas sanctuary cities.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott's surprise signing of SB4 on Facebook Live Sunday night is fueling new anger from opponents.

"Governor Abbott decided to sign it in a cowardly way," said Cesar Espinosa, Executive Director of FIEL, an immigrants' rights advocacy group in Houston.

The day after the bill became law groups gathered to protest and hold news conferences blasting the Governor for signing a law activists contend will lead to racial profiling.

"If I get stopped by police, it won't matter that I'm a U.S. citizen, they're still going to ask me for my papers because of the color of my skin," said Abraham Espinosa. "It's not about criminals. They're targeting hard working, innocent families."

Officers across Texas can now ask anyone they detain for their immigration status. SB4 bans sanctuary cities and even targets law enforcement officials who refuse to cooperate with ICE. Punishments include fines or even jail time. HPD Chief Art Acevedo has publicly promised his officers will not act as ICE agents, but the fear is real.

"We feel SB4 will make that worse because they're already afraid to report crime," said Espinosa.

Some families have already been broken. "He goes 'I miss my daddy, mommy and he cries'"said Rose Escobar, whose husband was deported in March.

But the Governor says this is about the rule of law. "Texans expect us to keep them safe," said Abbott.

But even Republican law enforcement leaders like Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, someone who believes in tough border security and building a border wall have major concerns about what this law will do locally.

"If they gave me a list of 500 bad hombres in Fort Bend County, I'd stop everything, go get them and throw them in our county jail," said Nehls. "Let's focus on that first and then lets address the millions more just going here going to work everyday, their children are in our schools, they're not violating our laws. The message in my opinion sent now from Austin creates an us vs. them attitude."

Activists plan to challenge the law in court. If that doesn't work they say they plan to do what it takes to vote Abbott out of office. 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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