Senate Bill 4, Sanctuary Cities, and What This Means For You

April 28, 2017

In May 2017, Senate Bill 4 (SB4) became a law. The bill aims to prevent local governments, police, and university campus police the ability to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Also, if law enforcement refuses to cooperate with federal officials, it would make the law enforcement guilty of a misdemeanor. This would fly in the face of many "sanctuary cities" in Texas and could lead to more deportations. (Read the text of SB4 here.)  

Where do Texans stand on SB4?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has put his full support behind SB4. This puts him in an interesting position, as Austin aligns itself with many laws that are common in sanctuary cities.

Today I declared banning sanctuary cities to be an emergency item in Texas. We'll get this done & penalize the offenders. #txlege

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 31, 2017

Controversially, Austin Sheriff Sally Hernandez stated that she would only hold immigrants if there was a warrant or if they committed a serious offense. According to the Austin Chronicle, this statement resulted in even more intense ICE raids in the city. According to an interview conducted by Fox News, Sheriff Hernandez is well within her rights.“The feds can’t tell a state or a local municipality how to handle immigration detainer requests put up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Angela Morrison, a professor at Texas A&M University’s School of Law, told Fox News. “Under the 10th Amendment, it’s up to states and local municipalities to decide whether or not they will comply.” Another serious concern is that, by passing SB4, this could discourage immigrants in general from reporting non-immigration crimes for fear of deportation. This prompted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to declare, "[The Houston Police Department] is not ICE and we don't seek to be ICE." However, many other Texans still support SB4 whole-heartedly, including those in the House and the Senate. The Texas Senate already passed SB4 in February 2017. Prior to the passage of SB4, the House was debating an almost identical bill for passage.

What Exactly are Sanctuary Cities?

The debate over the legality of sanctuary cities has created many serious issues. Notably, a major issue includes the definition of sanctuary cities. A sanctuary city is a city that allocates fewer resources towards deportation of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Local governments that identify as sanctuary cities aim to create a safer environment to reduce other crimes. Also, undocumented immigrants end up using health services and other public resources, which could financially benefit these sanctuary cities. There are no Texas cities which publicly declare themselves as "sanctuary cities" (unlike cities like San Francisco, CA and Boulder, CO). However, many cities in Texas align themselves with sanctuary city laws, including:

  • Austin
  • Brownsville
  • Dallas
  • Fort Worth
  • Houston
  • Katy
  • Laredo
  • McAllen

At this moment, local governments in Texas don't have to report undocumented immigrants. Prosecuting undocumented immigrants falls under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, certain factions of the U.S. government want to limiting funding to sanctuary cities. With this tactic, they hope to get these sanctuary cities to help deport undocumented immigrants. This is where SB4 comes in. By refusing local governments the ability to refuse federal immigration actions, this effectively gives priority to the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant stance. Any local matters could be pushed aside if federal immigration officers arrive for operations in a city.

Will Sanctuary Cities Survive 2017 in Texas?

There are many factions looking to end sanctuary cities and deport undocumented immigrants from the U.S. This includes an executive order from President Donald Trump which intends to block federal funding from sanctuary cities so as to increase deportations. However, the executive order was blocked on April 25, 2017, thereby granting a reprieve for sanctuary cities and a guarantee that they will receive federal funding. The reprieve may be short-lived, as President Trump has shown he will pass more executive orders if the original is ruled unconstitutional. If you live in San Antonio and are concerned about any of these issues pertaining to sanctuary cities and beyond, call Salmon-Haas. We can help inform you and work towards giving you the peace of mind you need.

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Immigration law can be complex, but we always stay on top of the latest developments. If you have questions about immigration law or your immigration case, contact us today to set up a free initial consultation.

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