Once again Texas Republicans prove they care more about re-election than taxpayer dollars, the rule of law or basic human decency. Their latest disaster, the Sanctuary City Bill, would be almost funny if it wasn’t for the fact that it will increase crime, subject police officers to criminal liability and almost certainly be struck down by federal courts.
For those of you who try to ignore the Texas legislature’s biennial exercise in stupidity, the story goes like this. Sanctuary cities have existed for thousands of years even drawing mention in the Hebrew Old Testament. In America’s early years, sanctuary cities refused to return escaped slaves to their southern masters. In the 1980s, America’s sanctuary cities refused to surrender Central American refugees fleeing violence to the federal government.
Naturally, Republicans found a way to stigmatize sanctuary cities for political gain in the 2008 Republican presidential primary when Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani fought over whether New York provided sanctuary to undocumented aliens during Giuliani’s mayoral tenure. Since then opportunistic Republican campaign managers have played the dual fear and race card to raise money from a Republican right wing base, who, despite massive gun collections continue to be afraid of their own shadows and anybody with skin color darker than their own.
Currently the phrase “sanctuary city” remains difficult to define but generally refers to cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities by prohibiting police from asking about immigration status and refusing to hold undocumented aliens indefinitely for pick up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Texas has exactly zero sanctuary cities which, of course, makes it the perfect target for Republican lawmakers desperately hanging on to shrinking electoral margins. Apparently, not satisfied with the fact that three different federal courts have slapped them down for passing intentionally discriminatory redistricting and voter ID laws, the Republican dominated legislature, led by the three stooges, Abbott, Patrick and Paxton, has passed another heartless and illegal law.
This time the legislature is strong arming local jurisdictions into following the Republican Party line on immigration status. Texas will now criminally charge sheriffs, constables and police chiefs who refuse to hold noncitizens for immigration authorities. Texas will assess daily fines of $25,000 against noncomplying local jurisdictions and will remove from office and even jail noncomplying elected officials. Most dangerously, channeling their inner Sheriff Joe Arpaio or perhaps Vladimir Putin, the legislature has authorized police to interrogate any legally detained person regarding their immigration status even if that person is not arrested.
Now I know out there in the magical thinking world of the Republican base plenty of people are eagerly posting their approval on the internet. I also know in the real world where parents and children need to trust local police for protection from real criminals this law will tear families apart, destroy community trust in local police, make us all less safe and of course result in yet another court striking down yet another Texas law as intentionally discriminatory.