Austin vs. Houston, how two Texas cities are taking different approaches in response to SB4.

By June 13, 2017Uncategorized

SB4 was passed by the State of Texas on May 7, 2017, which bans “sanctuary” cities and prohibits elected officials from refusing to comply with the ban.  Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez have been publicly opposed to the bill from the very beginning.  Sheriff Hernandez declared back in January 2017 that she would no longer honor jail detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  As a result, in February 2017 Governor Abbott cut $1.5 million in funding to Travis County over its sanctuary city policies.  On May 8, 2017, the State of Texas sued Mayor Adler, the City of Austin, Sheriff Hernandez, and Travis County in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, asking the federal court to uphold the constitutionality of SB4.

In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner has taken a more measured approach.  Back in February 2017, Mayor Turner refused to call Houston a sanctuary city and was unconcerned with the Houston Police Department’s policy of not asking about immigration status, due to Supreme Court rulings preventing law enforcement agencies profiling someone regarding his immigration documents.  Notably, neither Mayor Turner and the city of Houston, nor any elected officials from Harris County were named as defendants in the State of Texas’ SB-4 lawsuit.  However, Mayor Turner stated on June 8, 2017 that he will ask City Council this month to consider whether to join the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB4.   That vote could come as early as June 21.  Since the bill doesn’t take effect until Sept 1, 2017, perhaps Mayor Turner is using his political savvy to avoid to initial wrath of the State of Texas, while placating local city residents who disagree with SB4?

-By Timmy Yip