- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday embraced President Donald Trump’s proposed crackdowns on so-called “sanctuary cities” but didn’t mention the president’s recent order for a partial immigration ban as Muslim leaders and hundreds of supporters rallied outside the Capitol.

The “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” event was scheduled months ago but took on a more defiant tone - and attracted much larger turnout than usual - after Trump last week banned immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the U.S. The event’s organizers said they brought private security with them for the first time because of heightened political tensions, but only a few protesters showed up to greet them.

At the same event in 2015, one Republican legislator instructed her staff to ask Muslims visiting her office to take a loyalty pledge to the U.S.

No Republicans spoke at the rally, and Democrats criticized Abbott for not using the spotlight of his State of the State address to say where he stands on Trump’s immigration ban. Abbott also didn’t mention Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border of Mexico.

“The new administration in Washington has shown the potential to finally secure the border,” Abbott said. “But as (former University of Texas football coach) Darrell Royal said: ‘Potential just means you ain’t done it yet.’”

Opposition to sanctuary cities is one area where Abbott and Trump clearly see eye-to-eye. Abbott instructed lawmakers to send him a bill by June that punishes local governments that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

A Texas crackdown could be even tougher than Trump’s: Abbott wants to not only withhold taxpayer money to cities that don’t arrest or detain immigrants in the country illegally, but also the power to remove locally elected officials from office if they don’t comply.

“To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed,” Abbott said.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who runs the jails in the state capital of Austin, the state’s most liberal city, plans to stop honoring all federal immigration detainers on Wednesday and only comply with holds for murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking. Abbott says he is immediately cutting off grant funds that totaled $1.8 million last year and has asked state agencies for a list of other state dollars sent to the county, one of the biggest in Texas.

Democratic Rep. Ana Hernandez accused Abbott of having “chosen to side against local law enforcement by supporting policies that will tear apart Texas families.”



The Texas Board of Education will decide whether to scrap a requirement that public schools teach high school students to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theory after hearing Tuesday from academics who say that was meant to water down lessons on evolution and leave students wondering whether God created the universe.

Supporters of the existing high school science curriculums told the board that changing the rule could hurt independent thought in classrooms across America’s second-largest state.

How Texas teaches its 5.3-plus million public school students evolution has been a flashpoint for years, despite federal courts rulings against teaching creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design in public schools. The standards govern what teachers cover in classrooms, topics on standardized tests and the material published in textbooks statewide. Texas is one of the nation’s largest textbook purchasers, so changes publishers make to meet the state’s curriculum standards can wind up altering contact in textbooks sold around the U.S.

In 2009, the Board of Education dropped a then-20-year-old requirement directing science classes to teach “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution and added a requirement that students learn to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theory. A panel of Texas teachers and experts is recommending the board of 10 Republicans and five Democrats remove that language, saying it is confusing and time-consuming for students and unnecessarily allows religious and conservative ideology to trump science.

The board heard hours of testimony Tuesday and will hold preliminary votes on the standards later this week.

“The establishment of our educational goals should not be based on opinion polls,” Arturo De Lozanne, a molecular bioscience professor at the University of Texas, told the board.

A testy moment came when former teacher Tanya Estes urged removing “creationism from our science curriculum.” David Bradley, a Republican board member from Beaumont pressed her to “please cite” where “creationism” appears. Estes responded by questioning Bradley’s “mocking smiling.”



The House reconvenes at 10 a.m. Wednesday and the Senate heads back to work half an hour later. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht will address a joint session of the Legislature, then lawmakers plan to adjourn until next week.



“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you in the years to come.” - Gov. Greg Abbott on the need to overhaul Child Protective Services



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