Texas Tea Party activists are trying to pressure Governor Perry to toughen his stance on illegal immigration. At a press conference today inside the State Capitol, several groups issued an open letter Rick Perry, demanding he call a special legislative session to pass a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
The bill explicitly prohibits local police agencies from telling officers they can’t check the immigration status of a suspect. Supporters of the legislation sense a new vulnerability in Perry, who is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“Governor Perry was beaten up quite a bit in the last [GOP presidential] debate,” said JoAnn Fleming, chair of the Texas legislature’s Tea Party Caucus advisory committee. “Some of his opponents running for president have brought out some of his vague positions on illegal immigration.”
Critics of the ban say it would make illegal immigrants less likely to report crimes or cooperate with police. Some of Perry’s biggest campaign donors also oppose the ban.
The Austin Police Department and other local police agencies dispute the term “sanctuary city.”
“There is, I think a mistaken belief that the City of Austin is a sanctuary city, when in fact, it is not,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said in January, adding that the immigration status of criminals is routinely checked at Travis County Jail.
The City of Austin passed a resolution in 1997 that declared the city a “safety zone” where everyone is treated equally, regardless of immigration status.