There were no outbursts from the gallery like what took place during the committee hearing. The sponsor of SB4 Senator Charles Perry opened the debate by saying his bill is drafted only to make local governments recognize and follow federal immigration law; not add to it.
"SB4 is not an immigration bill it’s not a deportation bill,” said Senator Perry.
The Republican from Lubbock also pointed out the legislation does not prevent a community from having charitable outreach and assistance programs for immigrant families. Perry said exemptions from being asked about immigration status have also been added to SB4 to include, schools, hospitals, victims of crimes, and witnesses of crimes. Senator Perry also disputed claims the bill would force local police departments to become de facto federal immigration agents.
"The intent is not to deport college students,” added Sen Joan Huffman (R) Houston.
A key part of SB 4 is a civil liability clause; it would allow government officials to be sued by victims of any undocumented inmate who is released and recommits a crime. That section could eventually apply to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez. She started a new policy this month that limits which ice detainers she will honor that federal agents place on undocumented offenders in her jail.
Tuesday evening SB4 was amended to add a Criminalization Clause. Any top elected official who violates SB4 can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. That action would provide a mechanism to also remove that official from office. It’s something Governor Gregg Abbott said earlier this week that he wanted in SB4 to address officials like Sheriff Hernandez.