The Sanctuary Cities bill passed in the state Senate despite emotional opposition speeches from Hispanic senators who claimed American citizens will be harassed and targeted because of their skin color.
“This [bill] is going to be reversed some day,” said Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville. “This is the lowest point of my 24 years on [the Senate] floor.”
The bill allows law enforcement officials to inquire about a person’s citizenship status and eliminates the option for districts to not allow officers to inquire about citizenship status. These districts were known as ‘sanctuary cities.’
The bill passed around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, after nearly seven hours of debate with a 19-12 vote along party lines.
“The goal of this legislation is to be proactive,” said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. “Human trafficking, drug smuggling; it is real and at our doorstep. We can send a loud and clear message to illegal aliens that we will not tolerate their presence”
The bill was originally defeated by Democrats during the 82nd regular session, but resurfaced last week after Gov. Rick Perry signed it into the special session. It passed the House earlier last week and will be sent back to them for final consideration.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, stood against the legislation, claiming it would separate families and would cost $4 million for districts to train officers.
“The police chiefs of our major metropolitan cites all stand opposed to your legislation,” Whitmire said. “Austin, San Antonio, Fort-Worth and Houston [police chiefs] asked to kill this legislation because it would interfere with providing good public safety.”
Despite the recommendations from police chiefs, Williams said he disagreed with their concerns and said this legislation would aid in fighting against illegal immigration, but would not turn police officers into immigration agents.
“This legislation will bring a uniform policy to the state that would allow police officers to understand what they can and cannot do,” Williams said. “We are not requiring the officers to make an inquiry, we are saying you cannot have a policy that prohibits the inquiry.”
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, asked Williams to list each sanctuary city in Texas. Although William’s legislative polls did not produce a solid list of sanctuary cities, the following cities will be affected by this legislation: Austin, Baytown, Brownsville, Channelview, Denton, Dallas, El Cenizo, Ft. Worth, Houston, Katy, Laredo, McAllen and Port Arthur.
The last two hours of debate involved each Hispanic member of the Senate standing up to put a face on the legislation, claiming it will racially profile each of them.
“This legislation puts us back in the 1950s; the Jim Crow days.” said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D- Houston. “This bill is the most racist, Latino bashing bill I have ever seen.”