Bill cracking down on sanctuary cities passes, heads to full Senate

Protesters outraged over sanctuary city bill at the Texas State Capitol steps (KXAN Photo/ Tom Rapp)
Protesters outraged over sanctuary city bill at the Texas State Capitol steps (KXAN Photo/ Tom Rapp)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a 16-hour public hearing wrapped up just before 1 a.m. Friday morning, a vote from Senate State Affairs means Senate Bill 4 will now head to the full Senate.

The bill, passed with a seven to two vote, is aimed at cracking down on sanctuary cities in Texas. Under the bill, local authorities are required to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It would punish those who don’t comply with the bill by taking away grant funding.

More than 500 people were signed up to testify against the bill on Thursday. Just after senators cast their vote to move the bill to the full Senate, opponents of the bill joined hands chanting “we will vote.”

Those who testified gave heartfelt testimony about how the legislation would impact them. “This only instills fear within the immigrant community,” says a woman who said she was an undocumented college student. “I want my mom to feel safe walking within her neighborhood, I want her to feel safe driving to work and I want her to feel safe when visiting me at my university.”

Others pledged to continue fighting this bill if it moved forward, “I am here tonight to tell my immigrant community that we are here to stay, I am proud to be brown, and if you vote for SB 4 I promise you this will not be the last state we grace you with our presence.”

A vote could come as early as next week in the Senate, before moving to the House. The bill is slated to move quickly through the legislature, because Governor Greg Abbott declared it as an emergency item in his State of the State address earlier this week.

Abbott already cut $1.5 million from Travis County– after the newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez changed her policy. Travis county now only honors federal detainer requests for the most violent charges.

According to Hernandez, her office will comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests when the suspect is charged with an egregious crime, such as capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, etc. During the first day of the the policy change, Travis County told us 37 undocumented immigrants in jail were released on bond.

Before the hearing started, several amendments were added to SB 4, the biggest changes being:

  • If an undocumented person was convicted of a Class B misdemeanor or higher and the local entity failed to comply with the detainer and released the person who went on to commit a felony, the person harmed may bring a civil suit against the entity.
  • Removes the portions regarding the judges or magistrates being notified if a detainer has been issued and the substitute removes the language requiring the court record and case file to reflect if a detainer was issued.
  • Allows for the person with a detainer transfer request to complete up to the final 7 days of their sentence in federal custody
  • Will include law enforcement departments of higher education intitutions
  • The loss of state grant funds will be a one-year minimum, and continues until the entity comes into compliance.
  • Penalties will be top-down, meaning an entity in violation loses their state grant funds and every entity under their jurisdiction will lose funds as well.

Amid the concerns over potential raids by ICE in Central Texas, teachers’ union Education Austin is pushing to implement so-called “Know Your Rights” immigration education in every school in the Austin Independent School District. The curriculum and resources could include: instructing families on what they should do if ICE comes to their door. 

Immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, is educating immigrant communities what to do if ICE approaches them at their homes.
Immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, is educating immigrant communities what to do if ICE approaches them at their homes. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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