AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday signed a law targeting so-called “sanctuary cities” that allows police to ask about a person’s immigration status and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities.
Abbott, a Republican in his first term, took the unusual step of signing the bill on Facebook with no advanced public notice. He said Texas residents expect lawmakers to “keep us safe” and said similar laws have already been tested in federal court, where opponents have already been hinting the bill will be immediately challenged.
“Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said.
The bill cleared a final hurdle this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature over objections from Democrats and immigrant rights supporters who’ve packed the Texas Capitol. They call it a “show-me-your-papers” measure that will be used to discriminate against Latinos.
Every major police chief in Texas opposed the bill. Republicans say it is needed to ensure local jails honor requests from federal officials to keep dangerous offenders behind bars.
The term “sanctuary cities” has no legal definition, but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the U.S. illegally.
Republicans have a strong majority in the Legislature and shoved aside Democratic objections to push the bill, even as President Donald Trump’s efforts to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities have hit roadblocks in federal courts.
The Texas bill allows police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain, a situation that can range from arrest for a crime to being stopped for a traffic violation. It also requires local officials to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation.