Texas Senate panel derails 'sanctuary cities' bill

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas Senate committee derailed a plan Wednesday that would have allowed local police to question anyone they detain about their citizenship status, a major defeat for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who had called the effort an emergency and put it on the legislative fast track.

The "sanctuary cities" bill sparked months of heated criticism from police chiefs across the state and Democrats in the Legislature who feared the measure would encourage racial profiling and make it harder for police to do their jobs.

The House passed the bill over emotional protests from Hispanic Democrats, but the Senate committee rejected the police enforcement measure after citizens packed a committee room to testify against it.

Instead, the panel proposed new language that would change state laws to increase border security and expand the use of a federal citizenship verification program. That bill was left pending because a quorum wasn't present to give it final approval.

Sen. Tommy Williams, the chairman of the Senate committee and a member of Perry's party, said he had no intention of restoring sanctuary cities language in the new bill unless it came back through his committee.

Though opponents agree that Texas' immigration system is broken, they argue the legislation would only exacerbate the problem.