Texas senator slams bill to prohibit 'sanctuary' cities

Mar 13, 2015, 4:41pm CDT
Kimberly Reeves Capitol reporter-Austin Business Journal

Texas Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Houston's former controller, has posted an opinion piece that calls a proposed bill to prohibit so-called sanctuary cities as both bad policy and bad for the economy in cities across the state.

This session's sanctuary city bill is up for a hearing on March 16. Senate Bill 185, filed by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would add language to the local government code that would allow law enforcement officers to question a person's immigration status, as well as share that information with the federal government, which is charged with immigration enforcement.

The bill excludes school districts and hospitals, and it prohibits jurisdictions to receive state grant funds if it prohibits the ability to ask such questions. The Attorney General would be authorized investigate citizen complaints that allege jurisdictions have adopted policies or guidelines in defiance of the law.

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats tagged the sanctuary cities bill for improper notification. Garcia, in her blog, said such a bill was bad for business.

"Texas farmers, builders and many other industries rely on immigrant labor and their purchasing power," Garcia wrote. "Our economy would take a serious blow if we were to prioritize arresting and deporting the hardworking immigrants of this state. This is the main reason these bills have failed so many times in the past. In previous legislative sessions, the state's business interests have united to stop a policy that would be detrimental to our state economy."

Opponents, including a number of municipal police chiefs, have stated either no policy prohibiting such questioning of detainees exists or the requirement to process people on behalf of the federal government would be a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Perry's bill is similar in language to bills in past sessions. Garcia noted the Republican super-majority in the Texas legislature had failed to pass sanctuary city bills the past two sessions, despite the urging of then-Gov. Rick Perry. If passed, the bill's proposal would be effective Sept. 1.