How Texas' sanctuary cities ban compares to Arizona's 'show me your papers' law


AUSTIN — Before Texas’ sanctuary cities ban even made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, it had a not-so-flattering nickname: the “show me your papers” law, a reference to a similar Arizona measure that sparked national debate and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The ban’s opponents used the moniker in hopes of conjuring flashbacks to the business boycotts, negative publicity and court decisions striking down major provisions of Arizona’s 2010 law. Proponents of the law, including Abbott, rejected the comparison and called it fear-mongering.

As Texas begins what is likely to be a years-long legal saga over the sanctuary cities ban, Arizona is still recovering from its six-year court battle. Both opponents and supporters of Texas’ law say there are important differences between it and the 2010 law. And while they don’t agree on much when it comes to sanctuary cities, both sides argue there are lessons Texas can draw from Arizona’s experience.

“It’s a good political talking point for Democrats, but they’re two very different pieces of legislation,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.

What’s in the laws

Senate Bill 1070, as Arizona’s “show me your papers” law was first called, was crafted when the state’s lawmakers were trying to crack down on illegal immigration. The law helped elevate Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an immigration hard-liner, to national prominence.

Perhaps the most well-known provision in the law required police officers to ask people they detained about their immigration status if they had reasonable suspicion they were in the country illegally. But it also had other tough-on-immigration provisions. One made it a crime for unauthorized immigrants to work or seek work in the state. Another made it a state crime for unauthorized immigrants to fail to register with the federal government upon entering the country. A third measure allowed police to arrest people without warrants if they had probable cause to believe that the person had committed crimes that would lead to their deportation.

Opponents challenged all four of the provisions in the U.S. Supreme Court. Only the “show me your papers” provision was upheld. The other provisions, the court ruled, undermined the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law.

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