State Rep. Mary Gonzalez of Texas, left, consoles state Rep. Diana Arevalo shortly before the affirmative vote on SB 4, the sanctuary cities bill in the state Senate. (Jay Janner / AP)
The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial “sanctuary cities” ban that would make it a crime for law enforcement to refuse cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Ending several weeks of emotional debate in both houses of the legislature, the Senate endorsed House amendments to the bill, which provides some of the toughest penalties in the country for local jurisdictions that do not help enforce federal immigration laws.
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the measure, known as Senate Bill 4, into law.
The bill would punish cities, counties and universities that have policies prohibiting local law enforcement officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or enforcing immigration law. Those who violate the ban would face a criminal charge, and local jurisdictions could face fines of up to $25,000 a day for each violation.
Officers would also be allowed to question a person’s immigration status in the course of any legal detention, even for an offense as minor as jaywalking or speeding—a provision that has sparked anger and debate throughout the state.
"I’m getting my signing pen warmed up," Abbott, who has been a strong supporter of the bill, tweeted Wednesday night.
Immigrant advocates have likened the legislation to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, passed in 2010, which required law enforcement to check people’s immigration status during lawful detentions when there was reason to believe they were in the country illegally.
Sen. Charles Perry, who authored the bill, said it intended to provide “uniform application of the law without prejudice” to everyone in Texas.
“Banning sanctuary cities is about stopping officials who have sworn to enforce the law from helping people who commit terrible crimes evade immigration detainers,” he said in a statement.