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Texas House Approves Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill
On Wednesday morning, Chairman Rafael Anchia asked his fellow House members to explain the motivation behind SB 4, the anti-“sanctuary cities” bill. Despite Texas’ near-perfect record of compliance with federal detention requests, the bill has moved quickly through both chambers, and likely will soon become law.
Introduced in February as part of Governor Abbott’s “emergency items” this session, SB 4 generated overwhelming opposition from advocates, lawyers, law enforcement, and faith leaders from across the state. And even though the House version of the bill started off as a scaled-back version of the Senate’s bill, an amendment that was added on early during the House debate turned the House version into an Arizona style “show me your papers” bill with much different implications than the bill that passed out of a House committee earlier this month.
After passing the Senate floor 20-10, the bill moved over to the House. The House sponsor for the bill, Chairman Charlie Geren had the bill heard in House State Affairs. The House committee hearing lasted for over 10 hours and Texas Impact watched every minute. Texas Impact attorney Joshua Houston testified against the bill. The House hearing featured heart-wrenching testimony from children of undocumented parents. The testimony made Vice Chair Giddings leave the dais to console a young girl. The bill was voted favorably out of committee.
SB 4 was debated on the House floor on Thursday, April 26. The debate started at 10 AM and ended at 3:30 AM the next day. Democrats filed more than 100 amendments to slow the debate, as well as to limit the scope of the bill. Many Democratic members of the House made moving speeches against the bill, notable among them Rep. Gene Wu and Rep. Ana Hernandez. While the House passed an amendment by Rep. Victoria Neave that allows local entities to prohibit peace officers from assisting federal immigration officers at places of worship, (RV AM 40) the overwhelming majority of amendments failed. Of particular note was an amendment by Rep. Neave that would have excluded officers assisting or cooperating with domestic violence shelters (RV AM 35).
The most harmful and most controversial amendment , by Rep. Matt Schaefer, expanded an officer’s authority to question the status of an individual to any time a person is detained, rather than limiting it to individuals who are already under arrest—meaning that a police officer could inquire about the status of an individual on a traffic stop. The amendment, which was opposed by Chairman Geren, as well as the Chair of House State Affairs Byron Cook, passed 81-64. (RV AM 9)
SB 4 passed the House on Thursday and will most likely move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The faith community has worked tirelessly to oppose this anti-immigrant legislation, and moving forward, must embrace the task of educating Texans on the impacts that the legislation will have.