SB4 Ending Sanctuary Cities

Austin and most parts of Texas have been abuzz lately about the idea of doing away with so-called “Sanctuary Cities”, a description that mayors and other leaders in certain areas have used when describing their cities as a safe place for illegal immigrants to live and work without fear of being deported.

While the Capitol is always a flurry of activity during the time that the legislature convenes, this year seems to be one that takes that level of commotion to a new high. Governor Abbott has made no qualms about making “Sanctuary City” legislation a top priority, and I have had several people ask me about the real world effect of Senate Bill 4, which the Governor signed into law this week. The new law states:

“A sheriff, police chief, constable or jail administrator who fails to detain a suspect at the request of ICE could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum $4,000 fine, or both. Repeat violations could reach a fine of $25,000.”

As you watch or read the news you may have heard about a handful of the Police Chiefs in larger cities rallying to try and stop this bill from becoming law (and that is certainly their prerogative), in other areas of the state people are marching in opposition and almost anywhere you look folks have strong opinions on the topic, but when you look at the text of the law what jumps out at me and other rural law enforcement leaders is this:

Not much will change for us.

In our state, city and county jails accept individuals who have been charged with a state crime. When our local law enforcement agencies are alerted that one of these individuals is wanted by the federal government for an immigration violation, arrangements are made for those agencies to pick that individual up from the local city or county jail. This bill was aimed at the small number of political subdivisions that ACTIVELY tried to subvert detainers issued by federal immigration agencies. And THAT…is a recipe for disaster.

What we want the public to understand is that local law enforcement does not conduct operations on behalf of Immigration and Customs or the Border Patrol. We don’t go out looking for illegal aliens who are in our jurisdictions who have not committed any state crimes. In the vast majority of cases we don’t inquire as to what country an individual is a citizen of. With that having been said, we do encounter undocumented immigrants, usually in the course of conducting other routine law enforcement duties. Sometimes they are the victim of a crime, other times they have been accused of committing a crime.

In those cases, what local law enforcement can do is work with federal agencies to make them aware that we have a suspect who is not legally in the country. And that is a common sense approach to law enforcement work. Our goal is to protect the public and disregarding federal law and ignoring or releasing an individual back into the public, purely to make a political point does not support the goal of creating a safer city.

Regardless of political persuasion, most agree that our immigration system is in dire need of repair. I believe that most will also agree that asking or expecting law enforcement to pick sides and/or not cooperate with those who are charged with protecting our borders and enforcing our immigration laws, only serves to make our cities and counties less safe.

As law enforcement leaders, we ambitiously try to make our jurisdictions as crime-free as possible and will use all of the assets, including our local, state and federal partners, to succeed in that mission. Instead of trying to pit local and federal law enforcement agencies against one another, I encourage our leaders in Washington to work toward a solution to our immigration issue that can stand on its own and is fair to all parties.

We all have a job to do. And while politicians in Austin and Washington argue over the best way to secure our borders, our local officers will continue working right here to protect the lives and property of our citizens from any criminal element…regardless of where they come from.


Until next time,

Chief Eric Kaiser


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