The bill won't take effect until Sept. 1. Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said "we will fight this assault in the courts" and the ballot box. Abbott said key provisions of the bill had already been tested at the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down several components of Arizona's law but allowed the provision permitting police to ask about immigration status.
The term "sanctuary cities" has no legal definition, but Republicans want local police to help federal immigration agents crack down on criminal suspects in the U.S. illegally. Some Democrats said the timing of the signing particularly stung after three recent federal court rulings that found intentional discrimination in Republican-passed voting laws.
"They did not connect the history of our culture or how closely that it is tied to Mexico," Democratic state. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez said. "It's just extremely personal. There is a lot of disconnect. They don't really see this as affecting people."
The Texas and Arizona bills are not identical. Whereas the Arizona law required police to try to determine the immigration status of people during routine stops, the Texas bill doesn't instruct officers to ask. But it does allow Texas police to inquire whether a person is in the country legally, even if they're not under arrest.
Texas doesn't currently have any cities which have formally declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.
But Sally Hernandez, the sheriff of Travis County, which includes liberal Austin, enraged conservatives by refusing to honor federal detainer requests if the suspects weren't arrested for immigration offenses or serious crimes such as murder.
Hernandez softened her policy after Abbott cut funding to the county, saying decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. She has said she will conform to the state's ban if it becomes law.