After a round of discussion at Wednesday's City Council meeting, the mayor and nine of his colleagues tipped the scales in favor of joining other major Texas cities in challenging the state's controversial "anti-sanctuary cities" bill.
The lawsuit was originally filed in May by officials in Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo, and has since been joined by El Paso, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. The police chiefs of all major cities have been vocally opposed to the law, which allows police to question the citizenship status of people they detain or arrest, and punishes police chiefs and mayors who don't cooperate with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. “The perception we’re going to create by having this legislation is going to have a tremendously chilling effect on the immigrant community,” Acevedo said at a press conference when the law was passed.
After a contentious discussion on Tuesday in which the city council debated the vote, Wednesday saw another round of council members making their cases. Councilmember Robert Gallegos spoke vehemently in favor of joining the lawsuit, saying, "Every major city in Texas has filed suit. You ask why the city should join? Because the city of Houston is the largest city in the state of Texas and the most diverse in the nation."
Mayor Turner, who voted in favor of joining the lawsuit, gave his reasoning to the council. "We have a command structure, and our 5,200 police officers are under the command of Chief Acevedo," Turner said. "If he issues a command, I expect his 5,200 police officers to follow his instructions."
Councilmembers Mike Knox, Greg Travis and Steve Le spoke several times about their concerns — they made up three of the six votes against joining the suit. Councilmember Jack Christie left the chambers shortly before the vote and abstained from voting. "We are supposed to be a nonpartisan governing body," Knox said. "This issue is clearly a partisan issue that should be debated at the state or federal level."
"I have found that there are some things that may not be of your choosing but end up on your plate. And when it ends up on your plate, you have to address it," Mayor Turner told the council after members had made their points. “It’s very clear we’re not going to solve this issue around the council table, but it’s presented to us. And when we’re presented with an issue [we can't resolve], we put it in the court of law and let the courts decide — is it constitutional or is it not?"