SUGAR LAND—House Majority Leader Tom DeLay criticized the city of Houston’s “sanctuary” policy toward illegal immigrants in a speech Thursday night.
Speaking to a packed house of Fort Bend County Republican faithful, DeLay said he supported the concept behind legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., that would withhold federal funding from cities such as Houston that refuse to enforce immigration law.
“It greatly concerns me that the police chief in Houston, Texas, has created a sanctuary in Houston by announcing that he is not going to enforce our laws,” the Sugar Land Republican said, in response to a question about Tancredo’s bill.
“That is unacceptable, and we hope to address it through Tancredo’s legislation or other legislation.”
Since 1992, a Houston Police Department policy has officially forbidden officers from enforcing immigration laws in most cases.
Mayor Bill White has said he supports continuing the policy, because he believes immigration is a federal matter and he wants to free police up to protect the city from violent criminals.
Police in Katy also have a court-ordered policy forbidding them from enforcing immigration laws. The order came as the result of a federal lawsuit filed after a 1994 police operation to pick up day laborers.
DeLay, who is seen as a key player on upcoming immigration reform legislation in Congress, said he would support a guest-worker program that would allow immigrants to come legally to the United States and then go home. But he said the government needs to step up enforcement of immigration laws first.
“Before Congress takes any significant legislation, we must secure our nation’s borders,” he said.