At the beginning of the 85th Legislative Session, Governor Greg Abbott gave his State of the State address, a standing tradition whereby the Governor provides the state legislature with his priorities for us to achieve during our 140 days together. During this speech, he declared the prohibition of sanctuary cities to be an emergency item and he stated that, “to protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed.” Your Texas Legislature delivered on this commitment by passing Senate Bill 4, which Governor Abbott signed into law on May 7th and will be effective September 1st.
As you may be aware, the term “sanctuary cities” has been thrust to the forefront of public policy often stemming from tragic stories involving violent crime from someone who was in our country illegally. Looking at Texas alone and the depth of the problem, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that over 220,000 criminal illegal immigrants were booked into our jails between June 2011 and April 2017 and charged with more than 586,000 criminal offenses. Over 66% of these criminals were identified by the DHS as being in the United States illegally.
Time and time again, you have heard about the failures of Washington D.C. to adequately protect our border which they are required to do. During the 84th Legislative Session, Republicans in the Texas House championed border security policies and provided over $800 million in additional funding to secure the border. With the 85th Session nearing conclusion, the state budget has been crafted to sustain the $800 million investment in our border security efforts over the 2018-2019 fiscal years.
Yet, to keep citizens safe, it takes more than a major effort to monitor and protect the border. It also requires adherence to the law, and that absolutely includes elected and law enforcement officials who take an oath to uphold and defend the laws of the land. So, when Governor Abbott called upon the Texas Legislature to enact a ban on sanctuary city policies, we worked to ensure SB 4 would pass this session and make it to his desk for signature. I was proud to co-sponsor and lead this legislation and work with my colleagues in the Texas House to advance this public safety issue. Not only is it the toughest anti-sanctuary cities ban in the nation, but it is also based on a framework that has already been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under this legislation, cities are not allowed to establish policies that would impede law enforcement from enacting their civic duty to existing state and federal immigration laws by checking an individual’s immigration status and ensures that every law enforcement officer in Texas cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. In addition, if an official refuses to comply with the ban, the new law imposes penalties of a fine up to $25,500 per day, jail time and/or removal from office.
Opposing critics would tout that Senate Bill 4 is nothing more than racial discrimination, and that the passage of this bill will discourage reports of criminal activity because victims or witnesses of questionable immigration status will be too afraid to come forward. But the truth remains, SB 4 is targeted at dangerous criminals, not law-abiding people or children. If a person has not broken the law and is not under a detainer from ICE, then that person should not fear this new law.
SB 4 is not a stop-at-will policy or one that is based on racial profiling. Not only does it specifically prohibit it, but the law provides for consequences for officials who do. Therefore, people are protected from discrimination by local entities and, for the first time under state law, witnesses and victims of crimes would also be explicitly protected from liability as it relates to immigration law.
I believe that it is our duty to ensure the safety of all Texas citizens by taking action against all criminals regardless of whether the criminal is within or from outside our border.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. Please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688, email at [email protected], or follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @tparker63.