Chamber’s version expands police power to question immigration status
AUSTIN — After 16 hours of often contentious debate, the Republican-led Texas House tentatively approved a sweeping bill Thursday that would require local sheriffs and police chiefs to comply with federal requests to hold onto individuals in this country illegally or face a misdemeanor criminal charge.
The House began a marathon debate on Senate Bill 4, or the “sanctuary cities” measure, around noon Wednesday and approved the bill on a party-line vote, 93 Republicans to 54 Democrats, at 2:58 a.m. Thursday. A final vote, which likely will break along party lines again, is expected later Thursday morning.
At issue is whether local law enforcement should honor every request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold individuals in the country illegally until federal officials give further instructions or take them into custody. As noted by several of the bill’s opponents, the decision to honor ICE requests, known as detainers, is voluntary and Texas counties already comply.
In the most heated and prolonged moment of the debate, the GOP majority added a major change late Wednesday that allows police officers to inquire about someone’s immigration status during detainments, stripping earlier language that required an arrest.