Texas pushed to the forefront of national debate over immigration when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a so-called “sanctuary cities” ban that lets police ask during routine stops whether someone is in the U.S. legally.
It also requires police chiefs and sheriffs — under the threat of jail and removal of office — to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation.
The bill cleared a final hurdle this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature over objections from Democrats and immigrant rights supporters who’ve packed the Texas Capitol. They call it a “show-me-your-papers” measure that will be used to discriminate against Latinos.
Every major police chief in Texas, which includes some of the largest cities in the U.S., opposed the measure that allows police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain, a situation that can range from arrest for a crime to being stopped for a traffic violation.
The new bill comes at a time when immigrants, especially farm workers, are concerned about their future in the U.S. Recently Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania, arresting nine employees.
Other legislation is being proposed that would protect immigrant labor. The Agricultural Worker Program Act would provide “blue cards” to farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days. In Wisconsin, legislators are working on a state visa program that would give more control to states to assist with immigrant legal status.
Texas is nation’s second most populous state, and the seventh largest dairy state. Opponents say Hispanics will now be subjected to racial profiling and predicted the law will have a chilling effect on immigrant families.
The term “sanctuary cities” has no legal definition, but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the U.S. illegally. Some Democrats said the timing of the signing particularly stung after three recent federal court rulings that found intentional discrimination in Republican-passed voting laws.
The Texas and Arizona bills are not identical. Whereas the Arizona law required police to try to determine the immigration status of people during routine stops, the Texas bill doesn’t instruct officers to ask. But it does allow Texas police to inquire whether a person is in the country legally, even if they’re not under arrest.
The bill will take effect September 1.