Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday night signed what he calls a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” that allows police to ask about a person’s immigration status and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities. He did so over intense opposition from immigrant-rights groups and Democrats, who say the law echoes Arizona’s immigration crackdown in 2010 that prompted national controversy and lawsuits.
Abbott, a Republican in his first term, took the unusual step of signing the bill on Facebook with no public notice in advance. He said Texas residents expect lawmakers to “keep us safe” and said similar laws have already been tested in federal court, where opponents have said the bill likely will be immediately challenged.
“Let’s face it, the reason why so many people come to America is because we are a nation of laws and Texas is doing its part to keep it that way,” Abbott said. His spokesman, John Wittman, later said they chose to sign the bill on a Facebook livestream because that’s “where most people are getting their news nowadays.”
The bill cleared a final hurdle this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature over objections from Democrats and immigrant rights supporters who’ve packed the Texas Capitol. They call it a “show-me-your-papers” measure that will be used to discriminate against Latinos.
Every major police chief in Texas opposed the bill. Republicans say it is needed to ensure local jails honor requests from federal officials to keep dangerous offenders behind bars.
The term “sanctuary cities” has no legal definition, but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the U.S. illegally.
Reaction to the signing spread swiftly in Texas and beyond. Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said millions in the nation’s second most populous state will now be subjected to racial profiling and suggested that worried…