Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has signed legislation that will outlaw sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants in his state. The governor livestreamed the signing ceremony on social media, asserting that the new law will strengthen law and order in his state while critics contend that it will make policing more difficult.
On May 7, Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) into law during a Facebook livestream. The legislation calls for any Texas official who declines to fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents after detaining an undocumented immigrant and makes it legal for law enforcement to inquire someone’s citizenship status during even the most minor of interactions, Reuters reports.
“As governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets,” Abbott said.
SB 4 will go into effect on Sept. 1, when Texas law enforcement officials could face termination, fines and even up to a year in prison if they do not fully defer to ICE agents. The new law will also to question a suspect about their immigration status during any arrest, no matter how minor.
Abbott’s spokesman, John Wittman, revealed that the governor took the unconventional route of livestreaming his signing ceremony in order to circumvent the media, The Washington Post reports.
“We’re going to where most people are getting their news nowadays and talking directly to them instead of speaking through a filter,” Wittman said.
Abbott signed the bill despite widespread opposition from law enforcement officials across his state. On April 28, the chiefs of police ranging from Dallas, Houston to San Antonio signed an open letter urging the governor to not sign SB 4 into law.
“Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance,” the letter stated, according to Dallas News. “This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community.”
The chiefs of police added that the law could “result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime.”
The letter concluded that immigration enforcement “is a federal obligation… SB 4 is not the answer to immigration reform; rather it is political pandering that will make our communities more dangerous.”
Democrat state Rep. Cesar Blanco of Texas blasted Abbott for signing the legislation, accusing the governor of pandering to his most partisan supporters.
“This is red meat for his base,” Blanco said. “This is for his primary voters, not for mainstream Texas.”
Sources: Dallas News, Reuters, The Washington Post / Photo Credit: Texas Military Department/Flickr