Gov. Perry calls for an end to 'sanctuary cities'

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on January 11, 2011 at 11:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 12 at 10:59 AM

The gavel fell Tuesday at the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature in Austin.

Unlike recent meetings, this time lawmakers face a crisis: What to do about a $15 billion budget deficit. Cuts to services are all but guaranteed.

But Gov. Rick Perry says there's another emergency as well. He wants to abolish "sanctuary cities," where police departments make it policy not to ask someone's immigration status.

Perry's critics say the move is nothing more than political red meat for his supporters.

Dallas and Denton are among the state's 15 sanctuary cities.

"We must abolish sanctuary city rules in this state," Perry said to applause from lawmakers.

But state troopers also don't ask about immigration status; the governor's critics wonder if that makes Texas a sanctuary state.

"Although immigration laws and their enforcement are the responsibilities of the federal government, we cannot compound their failure by preventing Texas peace officers from doing their jobs," Perry said, offering no details on how he would abolish sanctuary city rules — much less pay for it, as the state faces a budget gap estimated to range between $15 billion and $27 billion.

"It just seems like such a pandering to the right to score political points," said former Dallas City Council member and state representative Domingo Garcia.

Garcia, now an immigration attorney, said the governor has his priorities wrong, and he worries that the legislation could have other consequences.

"If immigrants know that local police officers are going to be acting as immigration agents, do you think they're going to pick up the phone and call 911 when they see a robbery? When they see a rape? When they see someone's house being broken into?" Garcia asked. "They're not going to pick up the phone."

It's uncertain if Gov. Perry will present his own proposal or latch on to someone else's, but the issue is guaranteed to be hotly debated and among the first considered as the legislative session begins.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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