Gov. Greg Abbott

AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for a "sanctuary cities" law in Texas in his most public support of the divisive immigration issue since taking office.

Abbott said Monday the state must prohibit policies that "promote sanctuary to people in this state illegally." Spokesman John Wittman confirmed that Abbott wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to take up the issue in 2017.

"Sanctuary cities" has no legal meaning. It's typically used to describe local governments that ban police from asking about a person's immigration status.

Abbott's stance is unsurprising. But he has mostly ducked taking a clear position on the issue that roils Democrats and is opposed by sheriffs in some of Texas' largest counties. Republicans have proposed "sanctuary cities" laws since 2011 but have repeatedly failed despite an overwhelming conservative majority.

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