AUSTIN (KXAN) — A highly debated emergency item declared by Gov. Greg Abbott this Legislative Session is moving forward on Tuesday in the State Senate.
The Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 4, which would cut funding for any agencies that do not cooperate with federal immigration officers. The bill also prohibits cities or counties from instituting any policies that prevent local authorities from asking a person their immigration status.
Gov. Greg Abbott said, in response to the preliminary approval, “As Governor, I will not tolerate sanctuary city policies that put the citizens of Texas at risk. Elected officials do not get to pick and choose which laws they will obey.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, senators approved a floor amendment for SB4 which gives the state authority to outright remove an elected official if they don’t comply with the proposed law.
Last week, 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
During last week’s hearing, hundreds signed up to speak during the public hearing at the State Capitol. That hearing took 16 hours while the emotional appeals from the protesters did not impact the Senate Committee passing the bill to send it to the Senate floor.
Tuesday is just the first vote. The bill is expected to pass in a final vote on Wednesday. Republicans hold 20 of the 31 seats in the Senate.
It could be several weeks before it is taken up by the entire House.
One week ago, the governor cut $1.5 million from Travis County after the sheriff changed how the jail will handle requests from immigration officials. The cuts stripped hundreds of thousands of grant dollars from more than a dozen local programs. The Travis County Commissioners are now trying to come up with a plan to keep the programs funded.
The grants helped programs like the Travis County Veterans Court, Family Violence and victim outreach, even a prostitution prevention court. Now, the commissioners are looking at fundraising options, which might mean changing the size and the scope of how these programs operate.
Eckhardt along with several other agencies launched a donation site to fund the programs in response to the funding cuts. Within three days of launching an official fundraising account for Travis County, #StrongerTogether has already raised nearly $90,000.