Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has signed legislation that will outlaw sanctuary policies toward immigrants in the state illegally. The governor livestreamed the signing ceremony on social media, asserting that the new law will strengthen law and order in his state. Critics contend it will make policing more difficult.
On May 7, Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law during a Facebook livestream. The legislation calls for any Texas official who declines to fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after detaining an immigrant in the country illegally. It also makes it legal for law enforcement to inquire about someone's citizenship status during even the most minor of interactions, Reuters reports.
"As governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets," Abbott said.
The law will go into effect on Sept. 1, when Texas law enforcement officials could face termination, fines and up to a year in jail if they do not fully defer to ICE agents. The new law will also allow officers to question a suspect about their immigration status during any arrest, no matter how minor.
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Abbott spokesman John Wittman said the governor took the unconventional route of livestreaming his signing ceremony to circumvent the media, The Washington Post reports.
"We're going to where most people are getting their news nowadays and talking directly to them instead of speaking through a filter," Wittman said.
Abbott signed the bill despite widespread opposition from law enforcement officials across Texas. On April 28, the chiefs of police ranging from Dallas and Houston to San Antonio signed an open letter urging the governor to not sign the bill into law.
"Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance," the letter stated, according to The Dallas Morning News. "This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community."
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The chiefs of police added that the law could "result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime."
The letter concluded that immigration enforcement "is a federal obligation ... SB 4 is not the answer to immigration reform; rather it is political pandering that will make our communities more dangerous."
Democrat state Rep. Cesar Blanco of El Paso criticized Abbott for signing the legislation, accusing the governor of pandering to his most partisan supporters.
"This is red meat for his base," Blanco said. "This is for his primary voters, not for mainstream Texas."