Abbott touts Texas’ new sanctuary cities law
Speech to Sheriff’s Association draws mixed opinions.
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.
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.”