Texas House Committee holds hearing on bill to ban 'sanctuary cities'

AUSTIN, Texas -- The House Committee on State Affairs held a hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 4, which aims to ban so-called 'sanctuary cities'.

More than 600 people signed up to speak on the bill and of those, only 11 registered in support of SB4. 

SB4 would require all Texas law enforcement honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. The Senate version of the bill allows officers to ask about someone's immigration status id they are detained, which includes being pulled over for a traffic violation. 

Opponents say that portion in particular will open the door to racial profiling. 

During the hearing, Representative Charlie Geren (R-River Oaks) laid out the bill, which has some changes from the Senate version. The main change is it only applies to immigrants who are arrested instead of people detained.

Still, the bi-partisan Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) says SB 4 is discriminatory.

"Local Texas law enforcement complies with ICE detainer requests 99.87 percent of the time. This is a manufactured issue to suggest that our local law enforcement is not doing a good job," said Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Oak Cliff) who also serves as the President of MALC.  "But what it does do is it makes our community scared.  Both the immigrant community and the non-immigrant community alike. And it makes us feel like we're under attack. You've got to realize this comes on the heels of the Commander in Chief  calling Mexicans rapists and criminals." 

Representatives from law enforcement agencies from around the state, including Austin Police Department, testified against the bill saying it will erode public trust in police, making immigrant communities less likely to report crimes or work with police. 

"I frequently go out when I talk to the community and I'm proud to be able to say, 'if you see this patch and this badge, we're focused on your safety not your immigration status.' And so it would take away the ability to do that," said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. 

The Committee Chair said they would not take a vote Wednesday and told one witness the bill is "a long way" from being finalized. 

 

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