Texas House Debates 'Sanctuary Cities' Bill

Victoria Neave D-Dallas represents District 107 in the Texas House

Victoria Neave D-Dallas represents District 107 in the Texas House

Immigrant organizers in the state are already planning protests against the legislation, which must first be reconciled by the Texas House and Senate before it goes to Abbott for his signature.

Wednesday night, dozens of protesters, many waving signs and banners skewering the bill and its supporters, gathered inside the Texas Capitol to chant pro-immigrant slogans in English and Spanish.

After more than 16 hours of debate, the Texas House at about 3 a.m. Thursday voted 93-54 to approve the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, the common term for jurisdictions that decline to assist federal immigration enforcement.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez told the House that she believes the bill will expose undocumented Texas residents to more crime.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and the bill's sponsor in the House, said he would not accept or reject amendments, but rather leave them to the will of the representatives. Because the version the House passed is significantly different from what the Senate initially crafted, SB 4 has to go back to the Senate for another vote and the two chambers need to hammer out some sort of compromise.

"At this point, we're hoping for a miracle", she said. After that process is over, SB 4 will head to Abbott's desk. They could also lose their jobs.

It would also require law enforcement agencies, including jails, to hold people for possible deportation if they are asked by federal authorities.

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As the daughter of an immigrant, Rep. Neave said fighting the bill is a personal and spiritual journey.

"Think about the awful position we're putting law enforcement officers across our state in by destroying the trust that they have worked so hard to build up with the communities they're charged with protecting", Prairie said. The House's bill has a few changes, making it less restrictive than the Senate's, according to the Dallas Morning News, but it still hasn't appeased those against it from the start. A version passed by the state Senate in March would allow immigration inquires of anyone who is detained, including during traffic stops.

And on a four-day hunger strike to protest the bill, Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, read aloud the hateful messages she had received during her fast (including one suggesting she "starve to death bitch"), a sample of the animosity Latinos are already facing, she said.

President Donald Trump is trying to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities, but on Tuesday, a federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction preventing him from doing so.

Neave did, however, win a small concession from the overwhelming majority agreed to allow similar bans on immigration enforcement at places of worship.

Senate Bill 4, or the Sanctuary Cities Bill, will likely move a step closer becoming law as it is set to hit the House floor Wednesday.

"I feel scared, sad, confused, and angry along with all immigrant children tonight", said local Rep. "They're not going to want to testify in court as a witness to a crime, if they know they're immigration status is going to be checked", said Neave.

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