Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a controversial bill late Sunday night banning sanctuary cities in the state, going against the advice of police chiefs in major areas. He signed the bill into law on Facebook Live, in what many saw as an attempt to evade protests.
The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled legislature last week, makes police subject to Class A misdemeanors—punishable by up to a year in jail—if they don't cooperate with immigration agencies, the Texas Tribune reports. It would also fine local governments anywhere from $1,000 to $25,500 for policies that block immigration enforcement. The bill also applies to colleges.
Many challenged Abbott over his decision to sign the legislation on Facebook on a Sunday night. Comments on the video ranged from, "You are an unconscionable monster and nothing remotely resembling a good Christian" to simply, "Coward."
Democratic State Rep. César Blanco of El Paso told the Washington Post, "Quite frankly I think it was a cowardly way to do it. I think he wanted to get it done with less friction."
"It's ironic that he does it on a Sunday when families are together and this legislation is only going to tear families apart," he said.
State Rep. Victoria Neave, who represents the 107th District and launched a hunger strike last month to protest the bill, told the Post, "We anticipated it to be more public especially since this was one of his top priorities. They expected him to be there and to be more public so people could raise their voices."
In fact, protesters did show up at the governor's mansion on Sunday, shouting, "Here to stay," and waving a banner that read, "Abbott is a racist."
Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, said Sunday, "This racist and wrongheaded piece of legislation ignores our values, imperils our communities, and sullies our reputation as a free and welcoming state. We will fight this assault in the courts, at the ballot box, and in the streets if we have to."
The bill was opposed not just by immigration rights' advocates, but also by the executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association and top law enforcement officials in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
In an op-ed for the Dallas News last month, the chiefs of police for those cities said the bill was not the answer to immigration reform and would lead to more fear and distrust between officers and community members, as well as increase crimes against immigrants.
"We officers work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community based policing and outreach programs," the op-ed stated. "This legislation is bad for Texas and will make our communities more dangerous for all."