While many other states, particularly California, are seeking out new ways to “fight Trump” and defy the enforcement of immigration law, Texas is taking a decidedly different approach. Out in the Lone Star State, Republicans are moving forward with a bill which would essentially ban sanctuary cities and impose some stiff penalties for those not in compliance. This is in keeping with statements that Governor Abbott has made in the past, so if it makes it to his desk it will likely go through. Part of it is the usual route of cutting off state funding and grants, but this one takes the additional step of holding leaders, including police chiefs and sheriffs, accountable. And that could mean fines or even jail time. (Associated Press)
Texas Republicans were poised Wednesday to take a big step toward banning “sanctuary cities” in their state, debating a bill through which police chiefs and sheriffs could even be jailed for not cooperating fully with federal immigration authorities…
Under the bill, the state could withhold funding from local governments for acting as sanctuary cities, even as the Trump administration’s efforts to do so nationally have hit roadblocks. Other Republican-controlled states have pushed for similar polices in recent years, just as more liberal ones have done the opposite. But Texas would be the first in which police chiefs and sheriffs could be jailed for not helping enforce immigration law. They could also lose their jobs.
I’m not going to scoff at anyone who takes this problem seriously and proposes concrete steps to address it, but I get the feeling that in at least some cases they might be fishing in the wrong pond. The police tend to have a fair amount of latitude when it comes to prioritizing enforcement objectives on a day to day basis, but the overall guidance generally comes from City Hall, much the same as how the Justice Department takes their cues from the President. I suppose if you can find some rogue police chiefs or county sheriffs who are going against standing city policy you could go after them, but in most cases wouldn’t the real responsibility fall on the mayor or the city council?
And if so, there might still be something Texas could do about it. I suggested the same idea when we were discussing recent events in Oakland, where the City Council went far, far over the line in terms of shielding illegal immigrants. Perhaps, rather than jailing the Chief of Police, Texas could consider locking up the civilian leaders who direct their actions under some new state law similar to one section of 8 U.S. Code § 1324 (a)(1)(A), covering bringing in and harboring certain aliens, providing criminal penalties for anyone who:
(iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation;
(iv) encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law;
That might get their attention.
For their part, the Department of Homeland Security continues to try to explain to these sanctuary city types that they wouldn’t need to be busting into courtrooms or other localities to pick up criminal illegal aliens if local law enforcement would simply do their job. This was from Secretary John Kelly: (Government Executive)
“The best place for us to pick up these illegal criminals is in jails and prisons. It is inconceivable to me that an elected official at any level would prefer these types of men and women to be released into the community,” Kelly said.
Sheriff’s’ departments and police departments “want to cooperate with us and turn these people over that are in the jails,” Kelly said, meaning immigrants without proper documentation who had been apprehended by police on other charges. “If they don’t do that” — meaning if local law enforcement does not hand those people over to ICE — “we have to go into neighborhoods. We have to go into courthouses. We have to go where we can find them and apprehend them.”
Sounds pretty basic to me. Texas may indeed by on to something here. The 9th Circuit may be trying to gum up the gears for President Trump (at least until the matter reaches the Supreme Court), but the states still have their own cards to play if they choose to do so. We may have to apply a crowbar to this situation for a long time before the message sinks in, but I still get the feeling that it will sooner or later.