By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on Sunday a measure to punish “sanctuary cities,” despite a plea from police chiefs of the state’s biggest cities to halt the bill they said would hinder their ability to fight crime.
The Texas measure comes as Republican U.S. President Donald Trump has made combating illegal immigration a priority. Texas, which has an estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants and the longest border with Mexico of any U.S. state, has been at the forefront of the immigration debate.
“As governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets,” Abbott said in a statement. The law will take effect on Sept. 1.
The Republican-dominated legislature passed the bill on party-line votes and sent the measure to Abbott earlier this month. It would punish local authorities who do not abide by requests to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Police officials found to be in violation of the law could face removal from office, fines and up to a year in prison if convicted.