AUSTIN — Texas' largest law enforcement agencies joined forces with Hispanic leaders Monday in opposing a so-called sanctuary cities bill that supporters say is a needed tool against illegal immigration.
The emotion-charged bill, which Gov. Rick Rick Perry has designated as a top priority, would let law officers ask about immigration status when they arrest or detain someone.
The bill heads for an expected vote today by the Republican-controlled Senate after clearing a committee on a party-line 5-4 vote.
Hispanic groups, rallying outside the Senate, submitted thousands of petition signatures against Senate Bill 9 as the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security conducted the first public hearing on the bill since the Legislature's 2-week-old special session began.
Perry included the measure in the special session after it died in the regular session that ended May 30.
Perry and legislative supporters said the bill is needed to develop a consistent statewide policy, but opponents say it would lead to racial profiling and overburden law enforcement.
"It's going to bring a huge burden to our system," said Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who told senators that the added requirement would cost her department $1.5 million a year.
The committee also received a letter signed by Police Chiefs Jeff Halstead of Fort Worth, Willam P. McManus of San Antonio, Gregory K. Allen of El Paso and Art Acevedo of Austin warning of the potential "negative effects" if the bill becomes law.
"Violent and property crime, quality of life in our communities, and answering calls for service are our primary responsibility -- not enforcing Federal immigration laws," the chiefs wrote.
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