Ab­bott touts Texas’ new sanc­tu­ary cities law

Speech to Sher­iff’s As­so­ci­a­tion draws mixed opinions.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Gromer Jef­fers Jr. Dal­las Morn­ing News

Gov. Greg Ab­bott on Mon­day touted the state’s new law ban­ning sanc­tu­ary city poli­cies as a way to curb hu­man traf­fick­ing and other crimes.

He called hu­man traf­fick­ing a byprod­uct of bro­ken bor­ders and said the sanc­tu­ary cities law that he signed this year would help fix the prob­lem.

“It would re­move from the streets dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals, not de­tain hardworking fam­i­lies and in­no­cent chil­dren,” Ab­bott told the Sher­iff ’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Texas. “I ap­pre­ci­ate the strong sup­port the law has re­ceived from so many sher­iffs across Texas.”

The law, known as Se­nate Bill 4, has cre­ated a deep di­vide in the Leg­is­la­ture and law en­force­ment com­mu­nity.

Sup­port­ers see it as a com­ple­ment to bor­der se­cu­rity ini­tia­tives that could ul­ti­mately re­duce crime and con­trol the flow of peo­ple il­le­gally en­ter­ing the coun­try.

But Democrats see the law as a dis­crim­i­na­tory at­tack against im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly His­pan­ics.

“SB 4 will only di­vide com­mu­ni­ties from law en­force­ment, which is why ev­ery ma­jor po­lice chief in the state op­posed the bill,” said Chris Turner, D-Arlington and the leader of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus. “Greg Ab­bott and the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture just ig­nored them.”

Turner said the sanc­tu­ary cities law, dubbed the “pa­pers, please” bill by crit­ics be­cause it would al­low law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to ask peo­ple for proof of cit­i­zen­ship, would cre­ate di­vi­sions be­tween the po­lice and im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.

Sher­iffs’ re­ac­tion

The sher­iffs in at­ten­dance were mixed on the law, and Ab­bott’s re­marks sought to clar­ify that his in­ten­tions were not to have Texas law en­force­ment of­fi­cials serve as im­mi­gra­tion po­lice.

“There are as many opinions as there are hats,” said Dal­las County Sher­iff Lupe Valdez. “There are a lot of of­fi­cers that don’t agree with that.”

Valdez said the law was a po­lit­i­cal tool to at­tack vul­ner­a­ble Tex­ans.

“Through­out his­tory, we’ve had a vul­ner­a­ble group to pick on,” Valdez said. “Now it seems to be His­pan­ics.”

Valdez said Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety num­bers show that 1.6 percent of crime is com­mit­ted by unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants.

“Why don’t we ac­tu­ally take care of the prob­lem, in­stead of go­ing af­ter a group?” she said.

Tarrant County Sher­iff Bill Way­bourn also said he was glad Ab­bott clar­i­fied that the new law would not be used to make lo­cal of­fi­cers im­mi­gra­tion po­lice. Special ses­sion up­date: In a news con­fer­ence af­ter his speech, Ab­bott said he still hoped the Leg­is­la­ture would ap­prove all 20 items on the agenda for the 30-day special ses­sion that be­gan two weeks ago.

He said the Se­nate has con­ducted its busi­ness and the House could do the same, if it had the will.

But the gov­er­nor did not com­mit to call­ing another special ses­sion if law­mak­ers don’t ap­prove all of his pri­or­i­ties.

Ab­bott also de­fended the trans­gen­der bath­room bill that the Se­nate ap­proved last week.

He asked Tex­ans to “step back and calmly look at what the bill says be­fore cast­ing mis­guided judg­ment.”

But Valdez said, “I’ve had more peo­ple in­jured by try­ing to hold their urine to go to a bath­room where they feel safe than in­jured by some­body go­ing in dressed as another sex,” Valdez said. “We’re mak­ing up some­thing. It’s not an is­sue. We need to start car­ing for our peo­ple.”

Also at the sher­iffs meet­ing, Ab­bott said the coun­try needed to bet­ter sup­port po­lice of­fi­cers.

“Re­spect for our law en­force­ment of­fi­cers must be re­stored in our na­tion,” he said. “The badge ev­ery sher­iff and ev­ery of­fi­cer wears over his or her heart is a re­minder of a sa­cred trust, com­mit­ment and con­tract with each of us.”

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