Dallas Leaders, Immigration Advocates Blast ‘Sanctuary Cities' Bill Ahead of House Vote

Immigration takes center stage in Austin this week, where the State House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would effectively ban "sanctuary cities" in Texas.

Senate Bill 4 would make it illegal for Texas cities, counties and universities to block or ignore enforcement of state and federal immigration laws. School districts and hospitals would be exempt.

The bill would also create new penalties for government entities that don't comply -- including fines of up to $25,500 per offense and Class A misdemeanor charges for any police chief, sheriff, constable, or other leader, who fails to comply with an immigration detainer request.

The House is scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday.

Several Dallas leaders and immigration advocacy groups rallied Tuesday against SB 4, which they blasted as "racist" and "un-American."

"The way that we work with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] right now works pretty well," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who spoke during the rally. "If Austin and Washington get out of the way, there are career professionals who are committed to keeping you safe and doing their jobs. They work together pretty well. This is not needed."

Jenkins expressed concerns that the legislation could make the Latino community less likely to report crimes or assist law enforcement out of fear they could be deported.

Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston told ralliers it would also place an extra burden on a Dallas Police Department that's already stretched thin.

"This bill will make you less safe," said Kingston. "If Dallas police officers are drawn away from actual crime, from actual public safety work, you will be less safe."

Supporters of SB 4 maintain it will have the opposite effect.

In a statement to NBC 5, the bill's primary sponsor, Texas Sen. Charles Perry (R-Dist. 28), said:

"Banning Sanctuary Cities is about keeping our communities safe by ensuring those who engage in criminal activity are not automatically released back into our communities. Since this bill focuses on keeping our communities safe, we specifically protect victims and witnesses of crime in Senate Bill 4 to make sure no one is hindered from reporting crime. I am confident that a strong bill banning sanctuary cities will finally pass this legislative session."

Gov. Greg Abbott has also expressed his support, saying he "looks forward to signing legislation that bans these dangerous policies in Texas once and for all."

Republican majorities in the House and Senate all but assure the bill's passage.

Opponents insist the fight is far from over. Kingston even indicated that Dallas may file a legal challenge to the law once it's signed.

"I am sworn to protect and defend the 2.6 million people who are here, whether they're documented or not," said Jenkins. "And if someone wants to prosecute me, I'm glad that there will be lawyers there to help me. But I'm going to do my job."

"Good news -- we don't take things lying down around here," said Kingston. "I believe that Dallas will join that effort."

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