Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas approved a measure to ban “sanctuary cities” on Sunday, allowing law enforcement officers during a routine stop to question any individual about their citizenship status.
Abbott signed the bill, known as SB4, on Facebook Live Sunday evening without notice, sparking condemnation from civil rights activists.
“Let’s face it, the reason why so many people come to America is because we are a nation of laws and Texas is doing its part to keep it that way,” Abbott said in The Associated Press.
The controversial bill not only allows officers to question a person about their residency status, but also allows police chiefs, sheriffs, constables, and jail administrators to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they refuse to comply with a federal detention request from the immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. If convicted, punishment for violating the law may include fines or jail time.
According to the previous federal law, a city was not required to abide by ICE’s requests, allowing each official to exercise their judgment in detaining an individual, unless the request was accompanied by a warrant signed by a judge.
Some law enforcement officials feel that the new law would spread fear and consternation within their communities.
“Broad rules, such as those imposed by SB4, that push local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities,” police chiefs from several major Texas cities wrote in a letter last week.
“Such a divide between the local police and immigrant groups will result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime.”
The new law is scheduled to go into effect on September 1.