Texas City Defends Sanctuary Status from State Defunding
EL CENIZO – A city west of Texas is defying Governor Greg Abbott’s order to defund sanctuary cities unless they follow federal immigration law.
El Cenizo is a few hours west of the Rio Grande Valley. It’s considered a sanctuary city through its safe haven ordinance which protects people without documentation.
Abbott mentioned in his state address Tuesday he wants to withhold taxpayer money to cities that don’t arrest or detain immigrants in the country illegally, and remove locally-elected officials from office if they don’t comply.
The governor ordered lawmakers to send him a bill by June.
El Cenizo Mayor Raul Reyes said the governor is sending an unacceptable message to cities across the state. He said the small town is one of the few jurisdictions with a legal definition of sanctuary status in its books.
“I think it’s very premature about any legislator to talk about cutting funding when sanctuary cities aren’t even defined in our constitution. There’s not a clear definition as to what a sanctuary city is,” he said.
The city ordinance was passed in the late 90s. Local police and city government can’t question people’s citizenship status unless they break the law.
Reyes said they uncertainty can be felt in El Cenizo. He supports the effort to secure the border, but said Abbott’s strategy is not the way to do it.
“A lot can change. I made it very clear, like other mayors across the nation have, our law enforcement agency will not serve as immigration officers,” he said.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Wednesday to strip off federal funding from any city that does not follow federal law.
El Cenizo doesn’t receive any funding from the federal government, but they do get grants from the state.
Reyes said the grants are for community development. He said they’re put towards maintenance around the town, like street repairs.
The mayor also said it’s unknown how many people are living in El Cenizo without legal immigration documents.
“I think as Americans we are better that that. And I hope that people find it in themselves to be the better person and embrace each other,” he said.
Reyes said the city has no plans to remove their safe haven ordinance any time soon.
The Center for Immigration Studies lists any city in Dallas County and Travis County as officially sanctuary cities.