The City of Houston is joining several liberal cities in Texas in a lawsuit opposing Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary city bill passed by the legislature. The item was approved by city council in a 10-6 vote at their June 21 meeting.
SB 4 allows law enforcement to check the legal status of people they arrest or detain and would penalize entities which attempt to limit or restrict enforcement of U.S. immigration law and cooperation with federal authorities.
Turner had delayed taking action for several weeks after the bill was signed into law, sitting on the sidelines as most of the big cities in Texas quickly took legal action. Houston now joins Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and El Paso in suing the state.
The decision by city council followed over five hours of public testimony from residents and Democrat state lawmakers in the city the previous day.
In one particularly intense exchange, State Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) directed his comments toward council members Mike Knox and Greg Travis and condemned SB 4 and the legislators pushing it as racists. “This is evil.” he said, “This is oppression. This is suppression. This is discrimination.”
Travis replied that SB 4 was not discriminatory and is simply about upholding immigration laws already on the books. He sharply criticized Wu for imputing evil motives to people over policy differences and told him he should go to Congress if he had a problem with federal immigration law:
“Were talking about federal immigration laws, so if you have a question or a problem, probably the best place to go is Congress, because they’re the ones who pass those immigration laws you disdain. But to sit here and call people evil and hateful for wanting to enforce laws that are already on the books? Change the laws if you don’t like them.”
Travis also voiced concern that the city could lose millions of dollars in state and federal funding by defying immigration law.
Every Democrat on the council followed Turner in supporting the lawsuit. It should be noted that two city council members considered to be Republicans voted in favor of the lawsuit: Mike Laster and David Robinson. Another Republican, Jack Christie, abstained from the vote. Christie left the meeting moments before the critical vote and was said to be in the restroom.
The hearing for Houston and the other cities involved in the lawsuit is set for June 26.