'Sanctuary city' bill comes into focus

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A bill that Republicans say would crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities" in Texas is inching toward Gov. Greg Abbott's desk, and time is running out for opponents hoping to weaken the impact.

The sweeping proposal would give Republican lawmakers a long-sought cudgel against local governments that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration agents - threatening police chiefs and elected sheriffs with jail time, and fining defiant cities and counties up to $25,000 a day.

But critics are more concerned by what they see as an invitation for discrimination and intimidation. Hundreds of opponents have twice packed the Texas Capitol in as many months to protest, including young children of undocumented immigrants who pleaded with lawmakers to reconsider.

The House last week began defanging some parts of the Senate bill, including a section that would cut off all state grant funding. Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren has also signaled he wants police to have the freedom to only inquire about the immigration status of people who are under arrest and not merely detained, such as during traffic stops.

Immigration attorneys called that a significant change in the right direction but getting others will be hard-fought.

"They're getting the same things they want, just in different ways. It hasn't changed the spirit or intent," said Faye Kolly, who is working against the bill on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

A committee could send the bill to the full House as early as this week.