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Full Measure: The debate over sanctuary cities

Laredo Texas (Courtesy: Sinclair Broadcast Group){p}{/p}
Laredo Texas (Courtesy: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

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WASHINGTON (SBG)- Laredo, Texas is a border town and a bustling commercial center that’s 95 percent Hispanic. But Mayor Pete Saenz says there’s one thing it’s not.

“Laredo is not a sanctuary city,” said Saenz in an interview with Full Measure.

Yet the City of Laredo officially opposes Senate Bill Four (SB4) —the new Texas state law banning sanctuary cities.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed the bill into law last May. It allows police to ask a suspect whether he’s in the U.S. legally, and requires police to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

The law has spurred a flurry of lawsuits, including one last November over the San Antonio police chief’s decision to release a dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Saenz said though Laredo is not a sanctuary city, he opposes aspects of the anti-sanctuary city law.

“We don’t like SB-4, simply because it’s got all these dangers and we’ve outlined basically those dangers. Racial profiling is one of them,” said Saenz.

Gov. Abbott has defended the law, stating that it is a necessary measure to protect Texans.

However, such measures designed to address illegal residency in our nation’s cities remain controversial.

In January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to withhold federal taxpayer funds from sanctuary cities. A federal judge in California blocked the move calling it “unconstitutionally broad.”

Parts of the Texas anti-sanctuary law are also on hold amid a court challenge by the border town El Cenizo, Maverick County, and five of Texas’s biggest cities.

Laredo officials insist that the law isn’t necessary as they already had a winning formula: good cooperation with federal officials prior to SB4.

Laredo police department public information officer Joe Baeza told Full Measure that local law enforcement will turn suspected criminals over to Immigration and Naturalization Service if it is determined within the course of an investigation that the person is in the country illegally.

“The highly likeliness is if we wind up finding out that you are here illegally, we'll detain you and we'll turn you over to INS,” said Baeza.
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However, it doesn’t always work that way. According to the lawsuit against San Antonio, the city's police chief William McManus is accused of helping immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally navigate federal immigration laws instead of turning them over to immigration officials.

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