Texas House debating so-called "sanctuary cities" bill

Sanctuary Cities Debate continues in...

EL PASO, Texas - The Texas House of Representatives is discussing the so-called "Sanctuary Cities" Bill in Austin.

Should the legislation pass, cities, counties and universities will not be able to stop authorities from asking about an individual's immigration status, or enforcing immigration laws.

Click here to follow the debate and discussion live. Select 85th legislative session.

The bill would also allow the State of Texas to cut funding to institutions that  don't comply with the law. 

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is against the proposed bill.

"Any immigration law is completely outlined and delineated as a responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security," commander Bob Flores said. "We don't feel that local law enforcement should be part of an overlapping duty."

Debate in the House began at 9 a.m. and there were over 180 proposed amendments by House Democrats.

Earlier in the year, Flores went to Austin, on behalf of the Sheriff's Office, to lobby against the bill.

"A lot of the community policing philosophies that we've instituted have really paid off. Once you have a provision that mandates law enforcement organizations ask people for citizenship -- it puts a little bit of doubt and a little bit of fear in their minds," Flores said. "They may be more reluctant to come forward and report crimes to us."

El Paso State Representatives Mary Gonzalez, Cesar Blanco, Lina Ortega, Joe Moody and Joe Pickett are opposing the bill. 

Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez tweeted, "SB4 is an attack on Hispanics and the immigrant community."

Rep. Cesar Blanco tweeted, "SB4 supports racial profiling and blurs the line between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities."

Rep. Joe Moody added an amendment to the bill that would prohibit healthcare professionals, mental healthcare workers and community centers from asking clients about their immigration status. The amendment passed shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday.

It's still unclear when a vote will take place in the House.

On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump's January executive order on immigration that would have withheld federal funds from cities deemed sanctuary cities. 

The judge argued that taking money away from cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement could be considered unconstitutional, siding with Santa Clara County, San Francisco and other jurisdictions. 

The Texas Senate has already approved the "anti-sanctuary cities" bill, it is expected to pass the House. 

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