Texas Repub­li­cans see op­por­tu­nity to tar­get sanc­tu­ary cities.

Texas gov­er­nor push­ing is­sue

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM VERTUNO

AUSTIN, TEXAS | Texas Repub­li­cans have spent years try­ing to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion across the south­ern bor­der with Mexico.

Em­bold­ened by the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, how­ever, the time may fi­nally be right for the GOP to mo­bi­lize an as­sault on loosely de­fined “sanc­tu­ary cities,” es­pe­cially with two large coun­ties eye­ing such poli­cies.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott has pushed the is­sue to the front of his un­of­fi­cial agenda for 2017, pledg­ing in in­ter­views and on so­cial me­dia to sign into law a “ban” on cities and lo­cal gov­ern­ments that are seen as pro­tect­ing peo­ple in the U.S. il­le­gally, with sanc­tions such as cut­ting state fund­ing. Civil rights groups say such pledges can lead to racial pro­fil­ing.

Pre­vi­ous pledges by Repub­li­can gov­er­nors and GOP-ma­jor­ity leg­is­la­tures never have made it into law in Texas. But the political tide has changed, says state Sen. Charles Perry, a Lub­bock Repub­li­can, who has tried to pass a sanc­tu­ary cities ban for sev­eral years and al­ready filed a bill for the ses­sion that starts in Jan­uary.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple made it clear that solv­ing our il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis must be a pri­or­ity,” Mr. Perry said. “That starts by elim­i­nat­ing sanc­tu­ary cities, se­cur­ing our bor­der and en­forc­ing the im­mi­gra­tion laws we cur­rently have on the books.”

Some cities across the coun­try, like Chicago, New York and Seat­tle, have adopted for­mal sanc­tu­ary poli­cies — for­bid­ding po­lice from ask­ing about a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus or co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials. Noth­ing like that ex­ists in Texas, civil rights ac­tivists say.

“Every county in Texas, they let [im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials] into their jails to re­view the book­ing sheets to see who’s been brought in and re­view their sta­tus,” said Terri Burke, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Texas chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

But sher­iff-elects of Travis and Har­ris coun­ties, two of the state’s largest that con­tain Austin and Hous­ton, re­spec­tively, have said they are con­sid­er­ing end­ing co­op­er­a­tion pro­grams with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

Civil rights and im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates see the call to ban sanc­tu­ary cities as hos­tile to Lati­nos and warn it would lead ha­rass­ment by po­lice. Busi­ness groups worry about a re­duced la­bor pool, and some law en­force­ment of­fi­cials say crime vic­tims won’t call po­lice if they fear it could lead to de­por­ta­tion.

The de­bate rarely con­sid­ers the of­fi­cers who are sworn to up­hold the law but find them­selves caught in political bat­tles, ac­cord­ing to Charley Wilk­i­son, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Com­bined Law En­force­ment As­so­ci­a­tions of Texas.

“They all want political slo­gans and bumper sticker so­lu­tions,” he said. “If [of­fi­cers] make a le­git­i­mate crim­i­nal stop, we’re not go­ing to stand for them to be turned into a racist, and we don’t want them be­ing con­fused as to what their job is.”

Texas came close to a sanc­tu­ary cities ban in 2011 when then Gov. Rick Perry made it one of his “emer­gency” is­sues. A bill passed the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate af­ter a tense racially charged de­bate, but failed with­out a fi­nal vote in the GOP-led House.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers railed against that bill as racist. State Sen. Jose Ro­driguez, an El Paso Demo­crat, ex­pects the same next ses­sion.

“This is a bill that is di­rected at Lati­nos. It im­pacts not just the im­mi­grants, but cit­i­zens and doc­u­mented im­mi­grants too, just be­cause of the color of our skin and our ac­cents,” Mr. Ro­driguez said.

The sanc­tu­ary cities is­sue struck a national note in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign when a woman was shot and killed in San Fran­cisco by an al­leged gun­man who had been de­ported mul­ti­ple times and re­cently re­leased from jail by lo­cal author­i­ties. Mr. Trump promised to “end the sanc­tu­ary cities” and said those “that refuse to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral author­i­ties will not re­ceive tax­payer dol­lars.”

Demo­cratic may­ors of ma­jor cities across the U.S. have tried to soothe wor­ried im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions in their cities. In Texas, the may­ors of Hous­ton and Austin re­cently pledged to be wel­com­ing to im­mi­grants.

“We build bridges and not walls,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at a rally shortly af­ter Mr. Trump was elected. “Noth­ing that hap­pened [in the elec­tion] changes who we are as a com­mu­nity, our val­ues or our cul­ture.”

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