Months behind the Texas Senate, the Texas House is finally set to bring legislation to ban sanctuary cities to the House floor. The problem? Two powerful state lawmakers diluted and dismantled much of the original bill to the point that conservatives will need to make major revisions before passing it can be called a victory.
On Wednesday, the Texas House will debate a substantially weakened version of legislation to ban sanctuary cities and require them to cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.
Authored by State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock), Senate Bill 4 was rather robust. As introduced, it not only required law enforcement officials to inquire about individuals’ immigration status, but also compelled them to honor detainment requests from federal authorities. Should they refuse to comply, elected law enforcement officers would be subject to criminal charges and their jurisdictions could be fined by the state. Victims of crimes committed by illegals released in cities with sanctuary policies could also sue them for damages.
Then the legislation fell into the clutches of two of Straus’ henchmen, State Reps. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) and Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), who scrapped large portions of the bill and rendered it largely toothless.
Stemming from a needless compromise with Democrats, who are going to vote against the legislation anyway, Geren willfully surrendered the teeth of the law by amending it to defer to cities on their policies.
In essence, the change would prevent cities from being held accountable so long as they had no written policy forbidding cooperation. That alteration would allow the vast majority of Texas’ sanctuary cities, which currently operate on a wink-wink-nod-nod system rather than a formally written policy of non-cooperation, to continue to skirt the law.
Geren and Cook both intended to weaken the legislation significantly more, but strong, sustained pressure from the grassroots emboldened conservative lawmakers to resist those changes. However, SB 4 is still in desperate need of repair, and conservatives are planning to offer major amendments in order to get things back on track.
Citizens should ensure that their lawmakers support amendments that strengthen the legislation and watch for State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) to quarterback efforts to add them to the bill on the floor.