The Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill (SB) 4, a critical anti-sanctuary measure, in the early morning hours of April 27 after a stretched-out and heated floor debate. The measure was passed 93-54, on party lines, following 16 hour session starting midday on Wednesday.
SB 4 prohibits sanctuary policies in the state and requires law enforcement officers to comply with immigration detainers issued by federal immigration officials. Specifically, public entities are prohibited from adopting, enforcing, or endorsing any policy that prohibits or discourages immigration enforcement. The measure also authorizes state and local law enforcement to inquire into the immigration status of an individual under a lawful detention or under arrest and requires that law enforcement are free to communicate such information with the federal government, as consistent with federal law. Lawmakers also made sure to expressly include university and college campus law enforcement as subject to SB 4’s requirements.
SB 4 also makes any state criminal justice agency, county, or municipality liable damages resulting from an official’s refusal to comply with a detainer in the event that the criminal alien released commits a felony. The measure also creates civil penalties for public entities that violate SB 4’s anti-sanctuary provisions and could hold elected officials criminally liable for intentional violations of the bill.
The measure also includes provisions to protect against discrimination and ensure law enforcement act within the bounds of federal law. “This bill ensures that there is predictability that our laws are applied without prejudice,” commented Senator Charles Perry (R-28) during Senate discussions on SB 4 in February.
Texas Democrats attempted to stall the passage of the measure using extreme procedural tactics. First, House Democrats successfully blocked the calendar rule which would have set a deadline for any additional proposals or amendments to the bill. This allowed Democrats on Wednesday to introduce over 100 amendments to SB 4 during debate on the bill. None of these proposals were approved by the House. “We know the Republicans have the numbers in the building,” said Representative Chris Turner, (D-101) the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, explaining Texas Democrats’ rationale for the desperate maneuvers.
The Texas Legislature will next send SB 4 to a conference committee to negotiate differences between the Senate and House version of the bill. Governor Gregg Abbott (R) is expected to sign the anti-sanctuary bill once it makes it to his desk. This year, Governor Abbott repeatedly pledged to take action to support immigration enforcement and eliminate sanctuary policies in the state.