Texas anti-sanctuary effort complicated by Obama immigration change

The decision in 2014 by the Obama administration to move to a less aggressive method of working with local jails in regard to immigration enforcement has left lawmakers in Texas who want to put an end to sanctuary cities in something of a dilemma.

On Tuesday, a state senate committee hearing charged with studying issues related to the border heard from State Senator Brian Birdwell that the change in federal policy to target only high level offenders instead of all inmates who are suspected of being undocumented immigrants has resulted in a situation where all states – including Texas itself – have effectively become the so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Birdwell, who is actually the head of the panel, pointed out that while Texas would not actually be electing to become a sanctuary city, it would still be operating as one on a functional level because undocumented immigrants would be allowed to just go free from jail providing their crime was not serious enough to result in intervention from the federal government. The change in policy might also allow county officials who are against strict enforcement of immigration laws to fail to help US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport low-level offenders while still claiming to be fully co-operating with them.

The Center for Immigration Studies policy director, Jessica Vaughan, said that detained requests to local jails by ICE have fallen 50 percent due to the change in federal policy. Republicans in the legislature have vowed that next year they intend to pass legislation that will ban counties and cities from using sanctuary policies.