Donald Trump promised to crack down on “sanctuary cities” as part of his get-tough immigration enforcement policies, in part by using federal funding to force them into compliance. Texas cities who defy federal immigration law may find themselves locked out of state funding, too, if Governor Greg Abbott gets his way. Abbott renewed a promise on Twitter last night that he’s made for at least a year to start cracking down on “sanctuary cities” in the Lone Star State, and he’ll soon get the opportunity — if the state legislature provides it:
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 28, 2016
In case one thinks Abbott a Johnny-come-lately after Trump’s surprise win three weeks ago, this has been one of Abbott’s goals for at least a year. Thirteen months ago, Abbott made the same pledge, which has waited only for the legislature to return to session:
Gov. Greg Abbott, targeting “sanctuary city” policies on immigration, warned Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez on Monday to back down from a policy change on federal immigration detention requests.
“Your refusal to fully participate in a federal law enforcement program intended to keep dangerous criminals off the streets leaves the State no choice but to take whatever actions are necessary to protect our fellow Texans,” Abbott wrote.
His spokesman, Jon Wittman, confirmed later Monday that the governor was throwing his support behind legislation to bar “sanctuary city” policies, under which police are barred from asking those they stop about their immigration status. Abbott wants the Legislature to address the matter in 2017, Wittman said.
Despite large Republican majorities in the state legislature, bills targeting “sanctuary cities” failed in 2014. After Abbott’s statement, they promised to do better in the next session. Plans for a special session to consider the issue came to naught, though:
A majority of lawmakers in both the Texas House and Senate back Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent moves to rein in “sanctuary cities” that don’t comply fully with federal immigration policies.
As conservative lawmakers continue to press for a special session on the issue, The Texas Tribune has confirmed that a majority of state representatives support Abbott’s crackdown against sanctuary cities.
A letter sent to Abbott by the Texas Conservative Coalition on Oct. 28 contained signatures from 43 representatives, and another 14 state representatives have since added their names. At least another 19 representatives also support the measures according to responses to emails or calls from the Tribune, surpassing a majority of the 150-member body.
According to the Texas Tribune, Abbott declined to call the special session. That might have turned out to be wise. The 2016 election demonstrated a mandate for tougher immigration policies, which will make it easier for Republicans in Texas to pursue this next year. It also helps to have it considered under normal order along with other state business, spreading the focus on other issues.
The sanctuary-city movement has always been aberrant — a declaration of defiance of the rule of law by those who get elected to enforce it. It has also been cost-free, at least up to now. Abbott and Trump want to change that equation, and it will be intriguing to see how far they can pull up pursestrings without the courts intervening. That’s why Abbott wants to have the legislature behind him on his fight. Will Congress give Trump the same partnership?