Despite big protest and rally, Fort Worth won't join SB 4 lawsuit

Fort Worth divided over sanctuary city suit

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Despite a passionate protest and march of more than 200 people that weaved through downtown and ended at the front of City Hall, it looks highly unlikely that the city will join in a lawsuit against SB 4, the state's new so-called "sanctuary city" bill.

At a pre-council discussion late Tuesday afternoon, council members heard a detailed presentation from the city's legal and police departments about the law that goes into effect September 1.

Police said they will have to change departmental policy to allow officers to inquire about someone's immigration status during routine policing, something that is currently prohibited.

Assistant Chief Ed Kraus stressed that officers wouldn't question potential victims about their immigration status. He said by and large, he doesn't expect many of the department's 1,600 men and women to get involved in immigration issues.

"I see most of our officers not engaging in this activity simply because logistically, it's going to take them away from their purpose," Kraus said.

Despite his assurances, four council members openly advocated joining an existing lawsuit against the law, saying local police shouldn't have the option to deal with what should be a federal issue.

"We've put SB 4 out there in front of police officers. We've dangled a carrot. We're opening up a can of worms for our citizens," said Kelly Allen Gray.

But four other council members, along with Mayor Betsy Price, said they don't want the city to get involved in something that will take resources and strain its legal department.

Councilman Dennis Shingleton said he didn't necessarily think the law solves any immigration issues, but insisted that joining a lawsuit with Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and other cities wasn't the solution.

"I just don't believe filing a lawsuit is the way to fix this," he said. 

While the group debated inside, rows of protestors marched outside after first gathering at the JFK memorial statue.

Many held signs, while others proclaimed SB 4 was discriminatory.

"I was an illegal alien in this country for 12 years until we were granted amnesty back in the day," said Jo Burnam. "We don't need this type of law in Fort Worth."

The newly formed group United Fort Worth, which had been hosing weekly meetings ahead of the event, ran the "Day of Action" rally. 

Police said they are still fine tuning what departmental policy will look like under SB 4, including how they will work with ICE.

Kraus specifically called SB 4 a "bad law" when he spoke after the presentation, and said it has already caused some in the Hispanic community to forgo reporting crimes.

During the regularly scheduled council meeting, dozens of speakers voiced opposition to the new law. 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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