In the packed primary for the Houston area’s Congressional District 22, one candidate is being called out for his opposition to legislation stopping sanctuary cities for illegal aliens in Texas.

Sheriff Troy Nehls of Fort Bend County is one of 15 Republican candidates who has entered the crowded race to replace U.S. Rep. Pete Olson in Congress, who announced his retirement last year.

Nehls has served as Fort Bend County’s sheriff since being elected in 2012.

But now Nehls is embroiled in a shoot-out with fellow candidate Kathaleen Wall, a businesswoman and member of the State Republican Executive Committee, over his support for sanctuary cities.

It began when Wall announced the support of former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, who in 2017 worked to help pass a ban on sanctuary cities in Texas during his time in the Texas House.

“As a member of the Texas Legislature, I drafted key provisions in Texas’ sanctuary city ban making it the strongest in the country,” Rinaldi said in his endorsement. “Troy Nehls used the influence of his office to oppose our efforts.”

Nehls fired back that the accusation by Rinaldi was “fake news,” claiming, “I have never and will never support sanctuary cities.”

“Nehls is lying. He opposed the strong sanctuary city bill that came out of the House,” Rinaldi responded.

As Rinaldi pointed out in his rebuttal, Nehls was in fact opposed to a crucial amendment successfully added to Senate Bill 4, the sanctuary city bill by State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), which strengthened the bill by ensuring all local peace officers in the state can ask about the immigration status of anyone who has been detained, a distinction that includes routine traffic stops.

Despite conservatives winning that fight, Nehls said at the time that he was opposed to the plan, telling residents at a community chat in November 2017 (after the bill had already passed the Texas Legislature and was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott), “Senate Bill 4 is actually dangerous for law enforcement, in my opinion, because when you make that traffic stop, you don’t know what this person is thinking.”

“I think we will see more confrontation on the side of the road. I’m also very concerned about vehicles fleeing,” he added.

In a piece by KHOU 11 News in Houston following Abbott’s signing of the bill, Nehls was quoted as saying he believed it created an us-versus-them attitude:

“If they gave me a list of 500 bad hombres in Fort Bend County, I’d stop everything, go get them, and throw them in our county jail,” said Nehls. “Let’s focus on that first, and then let’s address the millions more just going here going to work every day; their children are in our schools, they’re not violating our laws. The message, in my opinion, sent now from Austin creates an us-versus-them attitude.”

In a race where Republican voters have overwhelmingly shown support for the ending of sanctuary cities for illegal aliens, Nehls’ position appears to be out of step.

The primary election in Texas will take place on March 3, 2020.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens