El Paso

Legislature prepares for fight over 'Sanctuary City' bills

Sanctuary cities

EL PASO, Texas - Senate Bill 4 filed by Senator Charles Perry aims to punish "Sanctuary Cities."

While there is no concrete definition of a "Sanctuary City" it typically refers to local governments that fail to enforce federal immigration laws.

Those that fail to enforce the laws could lose out of state funding. 

The bill would allow local police to enforce immigration laws if working with a federal immigration officer or under an agreement between a local and federal agency. 

State Senator Jose Rodriguez said he's worried this bill could discourage members of the immigrant community to speak up.

"They would lose the trust and confidence of the immigrant community to report crime, to report suspicious activity," Rodriguez said. "We spend a lot of time here in the community and across the state on community policing to involve the immigrant community in reporting crime."

Rodriguez said he doesn't consider El Paso to be a "Sanctuary City," but he also doesn't know how to define a sanctuary city.

"Districts, cities, counties are issuing support for their immigrant communities, their immigrant residents. Whether or not that would be considered sanctuary cities, is up in the air at this point," Rodriguez said.

Last week County Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the immigrant community. County judge Veronica Escobar said the county could still lose out on state funds. 

"We have no clue what sanctuary city means," Escobar said. "Could there be repercussions? I think there would be regardless of the resolution simply because we have a record of not enforcing federal immigration law through our local law enforcement."

County Commissioner Andrew Haggerty was the only one to vote against the resolution.

"The state has already said, if you keep doing these sanctuary cities, we're going to cut you off," Haggerty said. "The state has made that very clear, and we continuously throw it back in their face that we're doing this, and it could have a huge financial impact on El Paso."

Senate Bill 4 would also force jails in Texas to hand over undocumented immigrants in their custodies to ICE for possible deportation.

"That's what we're doing already. Sheriff (Richard) Wiles is honoring ICE detainers here in El Paso," Rodriguez said. 

The issue of honoring ICE detainers is a big issue in Travis County, where Sheriff Sally Hernandez said she would not work with ICE.

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