Texas is now a step closer to banning sanctuary city policies. Late Tuesday, the state Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 4, which punishes local governments that fail to comply with federal immigration law. The final vote was 20-11, on a straight party line in favor of Republicans. Final approval will take place Wednesday, then the bill will head to the state House.
Tuesday's vote came only after several hours of contentious and sometimes emotional testimony from proponents and detractors of the bill. Among the detractors was Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), who argued the bill would lead to more profiling against otherwise innocent people who are stopped for a minor issue like a broken taillight. "I hope we will pause and realize that these are people...these are our neighbors, our church goers, our workers, our police officers, our soldiers, who are frightened by what we're doing here today," he said.
But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) explained that it is only about making sure local entities comply with federal law, not that they enforce it. "This is not a deportation bill," Perry testified. "Federal law is deportation, it is what it is if you meet the criteria, and they have discretion whether you do or do not...SB4 didn't change that."
Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) testified that she has prosecuted cases involving violent crimes committed by illegal aliens. She argued that SB4 is not aimed at students or people trying to go to work. "We just don't want criminals who are here illegally and committing crimes to stay in our state," said Huffman.
The Senate fast-tracked SB4 after Gov. Abbott declared this issue an "emergency" in his State of the State Address last week.