Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Fact checking statements about sanctuary cities

Gov. Rick Perry speaks to the Senate on the first day of the session.
Gov. Rick Perry speaks to the Senate on the first day of the session.

Addressing the Texas Senate at the start of the 2011 legislative session, Gov. Rick Perry said he was designating two emergency items: toughening eminent domain laws and abolishing sanctuary city policies.

Eminent domain didn’t figure heavily in Perry’s cruise to re-election last year, but he pressed the idea that some cities — especially Houston — inappropriately give sanctuary to illegal immigrants.

Perry slammed both his GOP primary and Democratic opponents for cottoning to sanctuary cities — cities where local law enforcement officers aren’t required to alert federal authorities to residents who may be in the country illegally.

During a Jan. 14 debate, Perry accused U.S. Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison of supporting sanctuary cities.

"Senator, you voted for sanctuary cities," he said. Hutchison had voted against an amendment that would have required enforcement of existing border security and immigration laws, including fully fencing the southern border. Hutchison’s campaign said she voted against it because it prevented  local input on the location of a border fence.

"I must protect my constituents," Hutchison said in a speech on the Senate floor before the June 2007 vote.

From all evidence, we found it unreasonable to conclude that Hutchison’s vote against the amendment, which would have simply reaffirmed established border and immigration policies, was also a vote in favor of sanctuary cities. We rated Perry’s statement False.

Then we checked a February claim by Cathie Adams, then chair of the Republican Party of Texas, that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White had "offered sanctuary to illegal immigrants" when he was mayor of Houston.

A 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service listed Houston among 32 localities that had sanctuary policies. But the only overt action during White’s time as mayor was the city joining the federal Secure Communities program, an initiative intended to make it harder for illegal immigrants to remain in the country. We rated Adams’ claim False.

That didn’t stop Perry from taking sanctuary-related shots at White — and in October, White fired back. Under Perry, he said, the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers have had "standing orders" not to inquire into the immigration status of people unless they’re under arrest.

According to a 1990 policy, DPS shall not enforce federal civil statutes and regulations regarding immigration, or question anybody about it. But the department told us that if an officer has "reasonable suspicion that a person is in violation of a federal immigration law the department will refer that person" to the U.S. Border Patrol or the Department of Homeland Security "for immediate action." Lacking hard evidence of the so-called standing orders, we rated White’s statement Half True.