HOUSTON (AP) - Texas' gubernatorial candidates have renewed their criticism of each other's border security policies as the search continues for a missing American tourist presumably shot and killed by Mexican pirates on a border lake.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has accused Democrat Bill White of running a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants as mayor of Houston, which has a policy preventing police from questioning anyone other than arrested suspects about their legal residency.
Perry said he plans to make the abolition of "city sanctuary rules" an emergency item when the Legislature meets in January.
Perry has not specified whether his proposal would be at all similar to the Arizona's controversial immigration law, much of which is on hold while a lawsuit works its way through the federal courts.
That law would require authorities, while enforcing other laws, to ask individuals about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" they're in the country illegally. Perry has previously said Arizona's law wasn't right for Texas, but a recent poll showed about half of Texans would support such a law.
White said Friday that Perry's latest proposal plays politics with law enforcement and would divert police from responding to 911 calls and investigating crimes.
"Rick Perry opposed the implementation of the Arizona law in Texas because he did not want to take people off 911 calls and investigations. That reasoning is sound. That reasoning is used every day by police chiefs and deputy sheriffs," White said at a news conference. "And now when he sees that he's struggling to gather enthusiasm from the public, he's made up an issue and has a solution which is typical with career politician, centralize power in his own hands. But that won't make communities safer."
While receiving an endorsement from the Houston police officers' union Thursday, Perry delivered a speech in which he prominently mentioned David Hartley, whose wife has said he was shot to death by Mexican pirates chasing them on speedboats across Falcon Lake on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as two Houston police officers in recent years who were fatally shot while on duty by illegal immigrants.
Perry said his sanctuary proposal falls in the same category as border security.
"The idea that we need to be strengthening our border security, the idea that we need to be looking back at these cities that have put sanctuary city rules in place, I think have become over the 18 months very much on the radar screens for Texans and we're going to deal with it," Perry said.
White on Friday denied policies such as Houston's provide sanctuary for criminals, citing U.S. Homeland Security Department data showing that half of the nearly 393,000 people removed from the country during the past year were criminals -- with Southeast Texas removing the highest percentage of illegal immigrants with criminal records in the nation.
White said Perry hasn't provided law enforcement agencies around the state with enough resources to secure the border.
"What he has done is tried to hurt the reputations of the cities throughout this state by claiming they are sanctuaries for criminal activity," White said. "No city in this state is a sanctuary for criminal activity. They all could use more resources."
Perry placed blame with federal officials in Washington D.C.
"This rising tide of drug violence is posing a direct threat to our citizens," Perry said. "Has this latest episode (the Hartley case) finally awakened Washington to reality? I don't think so."
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