Most Texans support the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law, but residents remain deeply divided among partisan and ethnic lines over two of the law’s more controversial provisions.
A clear majority of Texas voters believe that local law enforcement should have to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and that police officers should have the power to inquire about the immigration status of the people they stop, according to a poll that the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune released Monday. Yet support for both measures of the law — known as SB4 — varies significantly depending on the respondent’s party affiliation or ethnic group.
Overall, 58 percent of Texans support the provision requiring police to share information with immigration agents and honor detention requests for illegal aliens incarcerated in local jails. An overwhelming majority — 85 percent — of Republicans support such cooperation, compared to just 27 percent of Democrats.
The UT/TT poll also asked about the law’s allowing police officers to ask people about their immigration status during detentions, what critics call the “show me your papers” provision. Just over half of all Texans support the measure, but when broken down by party, the partisan split was stark: Three-quarters of Democrats oppose the measure while 86 percent of Republicans support it.
“There aren’t too many people who remain somewhat opposed or somewhat supportive,” Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Texas Tribune. “To most people, it’s not complicated. It’s the mix of immigration plus law enforcement.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed SB4 into law in May, triggering a wave of protest from immigrant rights groups and the state’s Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists. Several Democratic-controlled Texas cities, along with civil rights groups, are suing Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxton in federal court, hoping to have the law declared unconstitutional before it goes into effect on Sept. 1.
Support for SB4 varies along racial and ethnic lines as well, although the divisions aren’t quite as severe as the Republican-Democratic split. When it comes to local police helping federal immigration agents, 67 percent of whites, 47 percent of blacks, and 39 percent of Hispanics are in favor of required cooperation. The so-called “show me your papers” provision had a similar ethnic split — 64 percent of whites support the measure but 59 percent of Hispanic voters and 57 percent of black voters oppose it.
Regardless of party affiliation or demographic profile, immigration remains the top concern for Texas voters. One-fifth of poll respondents think that immigration is the most important problem facing the state today, while another 12 percent say that “border security” is the state’s most pressing issue.
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