AUSTIN, TX- The battle over sanctuary cities made its way to the State Capitol Thursday morning. Hundreds of people signed up to voice their frustrations with Senate Bill 4, a bill that aims to eliminate sanctuary cities and sanctuary college campuses in Texas.
The Senate State Affairs Committee held its first hearing on the topic, laying out for the first time its plan of the bill.
State Senator Charles Perry R-Lubbock introduced Senate Bill 4 in November, but updated the bill on Wednesday to cover college campuses and expand potential punishments for local entities that choose to not enforce immigration laws.
“SB-4 is a step in the right direction to where people who are victims of crime or people who are a witness to a crime, would have statutory protection now that says they are specifically exempted from the immigration inquiry,” Perry said during the hearing. “So I think it is a step in the right direction for strength of those issues rather than groundless rhetoric that is being perpetuated unfortunately at their expense.”
Perry was interrupted multiple times during the hearing by outbursts from protesters watching from the balcony.
“There are consequences to actions, and the consequence of not applying law that these officials were elected and swore oath to uphold, would be that you would lose your state funding,” Perry said. “But the state did not withhold those funds, it was not their action in which did that, the entity itself made the decision to have those funds withheld when they chose not to comply.”
By noon, more than 400 people signed up to testify before the committee, many of which asked the senators to vote no on SB-4.
“The intent of this bill is to make our communities safer,” El Paso County Commissioner David Stout said during his testimony. “I submit to you that it is quite the opposite.”
Stout argued that the bill would actually make Texas communities “unsafe” and was fearful of the negative impact cities would face if the state cut their funding.
“If you take away those funds, our city, which has had the designation as the safest city for the last five years I believe running, would be much less safe,” Stout said.
On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott declared a statewide ban on sanctuary cities as one of his four emergency items this legislative session. This forces lawmakers to tackle the issue first before going onto other issues.