In a nod to protesters, the anti-sanctuary city bill that's making its way thought the state legislature has been tweaks so that police are not allowed to check the immigration status of someone they detain, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"We are not forcing police to be immigration agents or asking local law enforcement to do anything more than they already do," State Rep Charlie Geren told a hearing this week in Austin.I
t's a divergent from the Senate bill, which was panned by immigration activists, who claimed it would turn beat cops into federal agents. The legislation in its current form would only effect what happens at county jails. When someone is arrested and fingerprinted, that information is sent to the FBI. If there is a red flag, Homeland Security asks for a detainer to keep them locked up. The bill would require that those requests are honored.
"A police officer cannot arrest anyone solely based on their immigration status unless that officer is a 287-g officer that has a formal agreement with the federal government," Geren explained. "Currently, most 287-g officers are in jails."
The bill in its current form also explicitly protects illegal immigrants who come forward to report a crime or to ask for services like a restraining order. That was also a contention from immigration activists, who worried that it would dissuade victims from asking for help.
Hundreds signed up to testify before the House State Affairs Committee. A total of 527 were against it. Ten were in favor.
Opposition came from a wide cross section of groups, including members of the faith community, who felt the immigration detainers were too harsh. Austin Bishop Joe Vásquez, with the Texas Catholic Conference, urged the lawmakers to go after the immigrants who come to this country to commit crime, like gang members.
"Jesus Christ himself was a refugee. He was an immigrant. He had to flee because he was persecuted. We want to see something that treats people with dignity.