Three ways the ‘sanctuary cities’ bill could affect Austin

With the Texas House’s approval of the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, the measure will all but certainly become law.

The Senate has already approved Senate Bill 4, and Gov. Greg Abbott has made signing it one of his top priorities for this legislative session.

Here are some ways that the bill could affect Austin:

1. Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez's big decision: Hernandez is currently the only sheriff in Texas who has a written policy limiting her county jail's cooperation with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to extend the detention of inmates suspected of being unauthorized immigrants to facilitate possible deportation proceedings.

Under SB 4, that policy would allow Hernandez to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and removed from office. If SB 4 becomes law, she will have to decide whether to keep fighting for her policy or to change it.

2. Reason to worry during routine traffic stops: The Austin Police Department is one of the handful of agencies in Texas that have discouraged their officers from inquiring about subjects' immigration status, although it is not a written policy. Under SB 4, no department can prohibit their officers from investigating immigration status of anyone who is "detained," a broad term including routine traffic stops. Critics fear it will give officers license to profile based on race.

3. Protests and court battles to come: After Arizona lawmakers in 2010 adopted Senate Bill 1070, then the most draconian state-level immigration law in the country, the state faced years of legal challenges and protests. (The Austin City Council even got in on the act, ending business and travel ties with the state of Arizona to protest the law.)

The Supreme Court struck down parts of the law, and a settlement agreement stripped out many of the most controversial elements. With President Donald Trump planning to build a border wall along the Rio Grande, Texas was already likely to become the new front line in the battle over immigration, and SB 4 will put the state Capitol at the center of that battle.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the year Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 became law.