El Paso

El Paso county leaders denounce new anti-Sanctuary Cities law in Texas

El Paso county leaders denounce new...

EL PASO, Texas - A day after Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law, county leaders are condemning the anti-sanctuary cities bill.

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said the bill was pointless.  "It's a terrible law. It certainly was a solution to no problem," Wiles said. "Many of the issues in there were things counties across the state had already been doing."

The bill lets peace officers ask during routine stops whether someone is in the U.S. legally and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don't cooperate with federal immigration agents.

It also requires police chiefs and sheriffs - under the threat of jail and removal from office - to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation. That's something the El Paso County Sheriff's Office already complies with.

"We've never had any issues before where we felt the need to ask people for their immigration papers," Wiles said. "I think that's very problematic, and it could lead to racial profiling. It could break down the trust and respect that we have with our community, especially witnesses, or victims of crimes who may be undocumented."

The law takes effect in September.

"The federal government has done a much better job of enforcing federal immigration law," Wiles said. "It's really a lot of political rhetoric that does nothing for us but cause more harm than good."

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said the County could potentially seek litigation against the bill.

"I guarantee you the state is preparing for communities like ours to launch a lawsuit. I don't want to give too much away," Escobar said. "I am very, very worried about what the future of this bill brings to communities like ours."

Escobar described the Senate Bill 4 as the "show us your papers bill."

"Our safety and our security has been the cornerstone of our pride for a very long, long time. It's been an asset, it's been part of our strength," Escobar said. "A group in Austin has essentially worked as hard as they can to take that away. We've got to fight back as best as we can."

The Mexican government is also expressing concern over the bill.

The Secretary of Foreign Relations on Monday said in a statement the law  "criminalizes even more the phenomenon of immigration." It says the law foments racial discrimination and will reduce collaboration between police and immigrant communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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