Texas stokes immigration debate with 'sanctuary cities' ban

A small Texas town on the Mexico border filed suit in federal court on Tuesday seeking to throw out on US constitutional grounds a new Texas law that aims to punish so-called "sanctuary cities".

Texas charged to the forefront of the national debate over immigration as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a so-called "sanctuary cities" ban that lets police ask during routine stops whether someone is in the usa legally and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don't cooperate with federal immigration agents. If a Texas sheriff or other law enforcement authority can not lawfully honor an ICE detainer, risky people will slip through the cracks of the justice system and back into our communities. She said before Abbott signed it that she would conform to the ban if it became law.

The ACLU said more than a dozen of its state affiliates have issued their own travel advisories against Texas including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

"These types of measures further criminalise the immigration phenomenon, promote racism and reduce collaboration between migrant communities and local authorities", the Mexican foreign ministry added.

The law also requires police chiefs and sheriffs - under the threat of jail and removal from office - to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects in jail for possible deportation. Republicans have a strong majority in the Legislature and shoved aside Democratic objections, even as President Donald Trump's efforts to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities have hit roadblocks in federal courts.

The law will also allow police officers to ask about a person's immigration status during any legal detention, which could include a routine traffic stop. The law could lead to widespread racial profiling, the ACLU asserts in a press release. Abbott said Monday on "Fox and Friends".

The law- signed and broadcasted via Facebook- is giving local officials the power to act as immigration agents.

After Abbott signed the bill he said, "Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State".

Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the US illegally. To the contrary, the provision in the Arizona law is stricter than the Texas law.

The term "sanctuary city" has no legal definition, and Texas doesn't now have any cities that have formally declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

"Texans expect us to keep them safe, and that is exactly what we are going to do by me signing this law", Abbott said just prior putting his pen to the paper.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, one of the defendants in the case, told KXAN-TV that she plans to be compliant with the new rules.

  • Audrey Hill