Austin, Texas, appears to be at the heart of the nation's "sanctuary city" battle, while state officials move with to defund cities that won't assist authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented residents.
The Texas State Senate state affairs committee approved a bill that aims to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities on a party-line 7-2 vote after 16 hours of testimony Thursday from more than 600 people who signed up to testify on the measure, nearly all against it, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
While there is no definition for a sanctuary city, the term is used to loosely refer to local government policies, whether written or informal, that discourage jail officials and police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of somebody in custody, or don't require compliance with requests to aid the transfer of prisoners into the federal immigration system, the newspaper noted.
Critics of the state legislation – that included Austin interim police chief Brian Manley, San Antonio police chief William McManus, and Bexar County sheriff Javier Salazar – charged that the bill would endanger public safety by hurting police relations with immigrant communities, the American-Statesman reported.
The bill's author, Republican State Sen. Charles Perry, argued that the bill would restore the "rule of law" and deport violent criminals who are illegal immigrants.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who campaigned last year under promise that she would not hold undocumented immigrants solely for federal officials in most cases, released 37 illegal aliens on bond instead of detaining them for Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week, KVUE-TV reported.
Hernandez, who has come under fire of statehouse Republicans for her handling of undocumented immigrants, said she would only hold them for ICE if they were charged with murder, sex assault, or human trafficking charges.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott withheld $1.5 million in state criminal justice grants from Travis County, which covers Austin, this week because of Hernandez's actions, according to The Washington Post.
Abbott also asked other state agencies to come with a list of all state funding provided to Travis County that can be cut as continued punishment, the Post noted.
"Some law enforcement officials in Texas are openly refusing to enforce existing law," Abbott said in his annual State of the State address this week, according to the Post. "That is unacceptable. Elected officials don't get to pick and choose which laws they obey. To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed."
President Donald Trump issued an executive order earlier this month that threatens to withhold federal funding from cities whose policies hinder efforts to capture and deport undocumented immigrants, CNN noted.
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