'Sanctuary Cities' protests interrupt Texas House session

Protests erupted in the Texas capitol building on Monday over Gov. Greg Abbott’s new law cracking down on ‘sanctuary cities,’ interrupting the final day in this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature.

Hundreds of protesters chanted in opposition to the new law, forcing House leadership to stop the session and send state troopers to clear the gallery.

Activists wearing red T-shirts reading "Lucha," or "Fight," quietly filled hundreds of gallery seats as proceedings began. After about 40 minutes, they began to cheer, drowning out the lawmakers below.

Some protesters held banners that said, “See you in court” and “See you at the polls,” while others chanted “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. SB-4 has got to go.”

The demonstration continued for about 20 minutes as officers led people out of the chamber peacefully in small groups. There were no reports of arrests.

Abbott signed SB-4 into law earlier this month in an effort to remain consistent with federal immigration law. The law effectively bans sanctuary city policies in Texas and gives law enforcement officers the ability to ask the immigration status of anyone they stop. Under the law, officers who fail to comply, or cooperate, with federal immigration agents could face jail time and fines reaching $25,000 per day.

“What it means is that no county, no city, no governmental body in the state of Texas can adopt any policy that provides sanctuary, and second, what it means, is that law enforcement officials, such as sheriffs, are going to be required to comply with ICE detainer requests,” Abbott said on “Fox & Friends” the day after signing the bill into law.

He added, “Isn’t it quasi-insane that we have to pass a law to force law enforcement officers to comply with the law?”

Texas is the first state to officially ban sanctuary cities under President Trump. Colorado passed a law in 2006 outlawing sanctuary cities, but the measure was repealed in 2013. So far, only Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee have officially passed bills into law banning ‘sanctuary policies.’ Virginia attempted two measures in the Republican-led legislature, but both were suspended after Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe threatened to veto.

The Texas law is set to take effect on Sept. 1, and opponents have vowed to challenge it in court, after slamming it as the nation’s toughest on immigrants since Arizona’s crackdown in 2010. But Abbott said key provisions of Texas’ law had been tested at the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down several components of Arizona’s law.

Mayors throughout the Lone Star State were in opposition to the bill’s passage, claiming it would weaken the relationship between law enforcement officials and the public, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton already filed suit against local jurisdictions that had been accused of not cooperating with federal immigration agents.

Paxton filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just days after Abbott signed SB-4 into law.

“Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that SB-4 is unconstitutional,” Paxton said.

But opposition groups are pushing back.

Just last week, the Texas Civil Right Project filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, alleging SB-4 is a “discriminatory, unconstitutionally vague” bill that encourages “racial profiling.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.