The governor of the southern U.S. state of Texas has signed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities and threatening fines and criminal charges for police departments and officers who refuse to comply with orders from federal immigration agents.
“Texas strongly supports the legal immigration that has been a part of our state from our very beginning. But legal immigration is different from harboring people who have committed dangerous crimes,” Governor Greg Abbott said.
He added that law enforcement agencies “don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey.”
The Republican-led Texas legislature approved the law last week against the objections of Democrats, civil rights groups and an organization of police chiefs representing the state’s largest cities. It is due to go into effect September 1.
The measure allows police to ask people about their immigration status if they have been lawfully detained. It also compels police chiefs and sheriffs in Texas to honor detainer requests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials who do not comply could face a misdemeanor charge or be fired. Departments face fines of up to $25,000 per day.
Opponents say the law puts the state’s large Hispanic population at risk of racial profiling, and that there is an increased risk of victims not reporting crimes for fear they or a family member could be subjected to questions about their immigration status.
David Pughes, interim chief of police for the city of Dallas, and Art Acevedo, police chief for the city of Houston, wrote a joint editorial in the Dallas Morning News saying the measure stretches already limited police resources and amounts to “political pandering” instead of effective immigration reform.
“This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community,” the chiefs wrote.
They further said any effort at controlling immigration will be “ineffective” unless the federal government meets its enforcement obligations, and that if the Texas government wants to take some action it should target businesses that hire undocumented workers.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month threatening to cut off federal funding to local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities to detain undocumented immigrants arrested in criminal cases. But a federal judge blocked the order while legal challenges against it continue.