Following nearly six hours of discussion regarding the implications of Senate Bill 4, which would eliminate sanctuary cities, and the consideration of 39 amendments, the bill was passed to engrossment with the approval of 20 out of 31 senators Tuesday night.
Tomorrow, the bill will be reread with the adopted amendments and a final Senate vote will be taken before it moves to consideration in the House.
Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who wrote the bill, said it mandates that law enforcement authorities comply with federal immigration standards. Under current law, anyone who is detained by a law enforcer such as a police officer or sheriff is subject to questions about their immigration status as the officer deems appropriate. Perry said the bill upholds this law.
“What’s at stake here is the rule of law,” Perry said. “This is not necessarily about those that are going to be detained. It’s about the 99.9 percent of the public out here that plays by the rules.”
While schools and hospitals are exempt from the bill, Perry said police divisions on college campuses are subject to these same federal rules. However, he said individual colleges can implement other policies such as preventing professors from inquiring about students’ immigration statuses.
Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said he is concerned about naturalized U.S. citizens being unlawfully detained. Perry said mistakes like these will be made, but believes the passage of the bill would not increase these instances.
While Perry said the law has “very little to do with immigration” and promotes uniformity of the law across the state, Sen. Carlos Uresti, San Antonio-D, said he believes the bill will have a “discriminatory effect.”
“Some law enforcement officers are gonna make a mistake and they’re gonna detain the wrong person,” Uresti said.
Perry dismissed concerns raised by senators saying the proposed legislation does not change any existing federal laws. Instead, the bill holds local entities accountable to abiding by already established law.
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who thanked Perry for the legislation said she was sad the bill was frightening people within local communities. During last week’s committee hearing, the State Affairs committee heard hours of public testimony against the bill.
Vanessa Rodriguez is a member of University Leadership Initiative, a group of undocumented students on campus. Rodriguez said she believes the bill is an attack on immigrants in Texas.
“My parents are undocumented, I have DACA, I have a brother who was born here,” Rodriguez, a government freshman, said. “What would happen to my brother if anything were to happen to my parents? I would have to assume that responsibility and that’s a huge burden because I’m only 18 years old.”
Agencies who do not abide by SB 4 run the risk of losing funding. Perry said if campus police departments fail to comply with SB 4, only grants that pertain to the commission of law enforcement would be cut, not other grants that affect higher education.
An amendment proposed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to exclude campus police departments was tabled and Perry said this action was unnecessary because universities could still have individual policies.