Targeting Sanctuary Cities: Texas bill would punish officials who don't comply with federal law

Tensions over Texas's Senate Bill 4, the toughest anti-sanctuary bill in the country, bled into the Texas State Senate building that houses Governor Greg Abbott's office on Monday. About 100 protestors staged a sit-in demanding a veto of the controversy legislation.

About 20 people were arrested for staging the sit-in.

The bill would allow Texas law enforcement to question the immigration status of anyone, even during a simple traffic stop. It would also allow any police chief, sheriff or mayor who failed to follow federal immigration law to be fined and or jailed.


"It can expose them to very high fines, about $25,000 per day," Gov. Abbott told Fox News's Maria Bartiromo on Sunday. "It exposes to jail time any sheriff or official who adopts a sanctuary city policy."

Those controversial provisions could make for reluctant enforcement. Police chiefs in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth and San Antonio oppose the bill, writing a joint opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News on Saturday that read: "This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community. And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News that argument is disingenuous, citing Department of Homeland Security crime statistics.


"Just for Texas, since 2011 through January of this year, we've arrested over 212,000 criminal aliens. We've charged them with over 566,000 crimes, including 1,143 murders, 6,000 sexual assaults and 67,000 drug offenses, 67,000 burglaries, over 500 kidnappings," he said. "So when you hear people say sanctuary cities makes cities safer, they're absolutely wrong."

Legislators debated the bill through the night last Wednesday. Emotions overflowed in and outside the chambers, with opponents accusing supporters of backing a racist, "show me your papers" bill.  State Rep.  Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, told fellow representatives, "I saw mothers trembling. If you have succeeded in anything members you succeeded in terrifying an entire community."

Patrick maintains the bill enjoys wide support among Hispanics, many of whom also favor strict enforcement of immigration laws.

"When Greg Abbott and I ran for governor and lieutenant governor back in 2014, we ran on separate tickets,” he said, “We both received nearly 50 percent of the Hispanic vote and you don't hear that anywhere."

The final bill will likely be passed and signed into law by the governor by the end of this week. The law would then take effect in September, but will surely be challenged in court.