Image ©John Branch for the Rivard Report, 2017.

On Friday, the Texas Senate State Affairs committee voted 7-2 to advance Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), a bill that targets so-called “sanctuary cities” and aims to punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to enforce immigration laws or cooperate with immigration officials.

Among the hundreds of people that came to Austin to testify in opposition of the bill on Thursday was San Antonio Police Chief William McManus. While San Antonio isn’t a sanctuary city, McManus said local police officers don’t inquire about someone’s immigration status when making arrests.

“This bill usurps the authority of police chiefs to direct their departments,” McManus told State senators. “We simply do not have the capacity to handle immigration laws as well as enforcing the laws of the penal code.”

McManus added that the San Antonio Police Department is understaffed as it is and said it would take “at least a year” to train officers in federal immigration law.

If passed, the bill would punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies don’t honor U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement detainers – requests to hold immigrants for 48 hours and hand them over for possible deportation.

The decision Friday came on the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to cut around $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to Travis County after its sheriff, Sally Hernandez, pledged to uphold sanctuary protections.

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John Branch

Cartoonist John Branch has commented on San Antonio and Texas politics for decades; his work is syndicated nationally by King Features.