‘Freedom city’? Going beyond ‘sanctuary,’ Austin, Texas, vows to curtail arrests


Ever since the Texas legislature last year passed one of the country’s most aggressive “anti-sanctuary city” laws, some enclaves have fought officials over the extent to which police can ignore federal immigration law.

The state regulation known as Senate Bill 4 has been described by opponents as the “show your papers” law for allowing officers to ask about the immigration status of anybody arrested or detained.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in May 2017, and Austin was among the first cities to challenge it in federal court. The law is currently in effect while a case against it proceeds.

The Trump administration, in the midst of legal battles against some states and cities for their sanctuary policies, has cheered Texas even as officers in cities such as Houston and Austin have rarely used the law to ask immigration questions. Some cities have indeed followed a part of the Texas law that calls for police to hold detainees believed to be in the country illegally.

The White House has said dozens of sanctuary cities and counties in the country are breaking federal law for not fully cooperating with immigration authorities and has threatened to withhold public safety grants from them. The Texas governor has shared a similar argument, and echoed Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in his belief that sanctuary cities promote crime.

Amid the controversy over sanctuary cities, Austin this month took its fight against strict immigration law enforcement a step further by declaring itself to be the first “freedom city” in Texas. City Council members unanimously passed two resolutions last week that will restrict police attempts to question immigrants about their status and curtail arrests for nonviolent crimes.

Read more at the LA Times