Calling for a decisive end to “sanctuary city” policies statewide, Gov. Greg Abbott this week asked the Legislature to take action. Absent Abbott calling for a special session, a legislative solution won’t happen until 2017.
Abbott’s positions were made public in an open letter he sent to Dallas County’s Democrat Sheriff Lupe Valdez. The letter was issued in direct response to Valdez’s recent decision to scale back honoring immigration detainers sent to her by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“‘Sanctuary City’ policies like those promoted by your recent decision to implement your own case-by-case immigrant detention plan will no longer be tolerated in Texas,” Abbott states in the letter. The Governor then lays out several steps that the legislature must take to address the growing problem, including:
- Pass laws that prohibit any policy or action that promotes sanctuary to people in-state illegally
- Enact laws that make it illegal for a Sherriff’s Department to not honor a federal immigration detainer request
- Evaluate the extent to which local taxpayers should foot the bill for local decisions that increase costs for health and education systems
- Consider amending the Tort Claims Act to ensure counties are fully financially responsible for the actions of any illegal immigrants who are released because the county’s Sheriff failed to honor an ICE detainer request
Abbott’s letter emphasized the need for state legislators to act. “At a minimum, Texas must pass laws that prohibit any policy or action like yours that promotes sanctuary to people in this state illegally,” adding to the chorus of conservatives’ peaking frustration. Just last week, Sen. Ted Cruz conveyed the same sense of urgency in a passionate admonishment to Senate Democrats to defund sanctuary cities. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is directing the state Senate to examine other solutions to cities who disregard immigration laws.
A recent poll commissioned by the Empower Texans PAC showed that no issue polled higher with GOP voters than banning sanctuary cities. Despite strong sentiments from constituents, the issue is still doomed in the House — where Straus’ liberal coalition structure has empowered amnesty supporters’ “best friend” State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) to kill measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
This past session, State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) filed HB 4117 – a ban on sanctuary cities. Like other reforms Straus wanted quashed, the bill was routed to the State Affairs Committee, where Cook killed it. This isn’t the first time Texas had the opportunity to bring an end to this problem — Cook killed the same legislation in his committee back in 2011 — in a special session specifically called for action on sanctuary cities.
Cook has not just been obstructive to conservative initiatives — he’s been downright offensive to them. In the same session, Cook went so far as to author HB 4063 – a bill to provide provisional drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, while also killing common-sense reforms in his committee.
It’s promising for conservatives that the issue of addressing sanctuary cities is once again entering the lexicon of Texas’ highest political offices. Unfortunately, that sentiment — a reflection of 77 percent of GOP voters — is merely a pipe dream as long as the current House coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats empowers obstructionists like Cook.