On February 8, the Texas Senate passed an anti-sanctuary bill that seeks to compel state government officials, local government leaders and campus law enforcement officers to cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The state’s House of Representatives must now consider it. Open immigration advocates have encouraged campuses in Texas to declare sanctuary status, but no institution has yet made that declaration. Still, the bill’s passage is likely after Governor Greg Abbott declared a sanctuary ban an emergency item during his State of the State address earlier this year.
The bill would withhold state grant money from cities, counties, state criminal justice agencies and campus police departments that refuse to follow established law. Grant funding could be withheld if those entities prohibit or discourage enforcement of any federal or state laws.
Colleges and universities could not prohibit campus police officers from asking about the immigration status of those they have arrested or prevent them from coordinating efforts with immigration officers. Entities violating the statute would be subject to fines starting at $1,000 for the first offense and rising to as much as $25,500 for subsequent violations.
Campus police would also have to comply if a federal official asked them to hold a person while officials determined whether that person was in the country without legal authorization. If passed and signed into law, the bill would significantly curtail colleges’ ability to avoid helping federal authorities with deportations.
The measure’s backers argue that government entities cannot undermine the rule of law by ignoring immigration laws. The bill’s author, Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock, has said the law needs to cover colleges and universities amid a push for sanctuary campuses. It would stop local officials from “picking and choosing how our laws are applied,” he said.
Opponents argue the bill will have a chilling effect on police work as illegal immigrants will be afraid to cooperate with police. However, the bill encourages law enforcement agencies to perform outreach to inform the public that, under the new bill, police may not ask about the immigration status of a person if that person is a victim of a crime, witnesses one or if they are the victim of family violence or sexual assault. It also prevents officers from searching a motor vehicle, home or business solely to enforce immigration law — unless they are cooperating with federal officials.
Texas is just one of the states addressing this issue. Alabama’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would allow that state’s attorney general to pull state funds from campuses that are not complying with immigration law.