3/15/2011 2:29 PM
Yesterday we reported that the committee substitute HB 12, the bill by Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton) prohibiting sanctuary city policies, passed out of the House State Affairs Committee. Today we caught up with Solomons on the House floor and chatted with him briefly about how the bill has changed since it was originally filed.
“It would clarify the unlawful detention to be in connection with the investigation for a criminal offense,” Solomons said. “That was the first. Our last change we made was that we listened to the school districts’ concern about some federal law and concern about some other issues that they feel is an issue for them. But we maintain still the issue about he commissioned peace officers.”
The bill includes an exemption for school districts, which applies to non-commissioned peace officers who work for the school district. In other words, a school security guard can be prohibited from asking a student’s immigration status. However, a commissioned peace officer who is called in to deal with a criminal matter, under Solomons’ committee substitute, cannot be prohibited from asking a student his or her immigration status during the course of an investigation of criminal activity on campus. “If you’re a commissioned peace officer and … something’s happened at the school and you’re brought in, you have a right as a commissione peace officer to detain someone, while investigating the offense, if you think it’s relevant, then you should have that discretion,” Solomons said.
That compromise language was brought to him by Jackie Lain of the Texas Association of School Boards.
Another change that Solomons believes makes the bill stronger is additional language not included in the original bill that allows for judicial review of the denial of state grant funds. “It really would be a process by which there is some sort of final determination, done in a very reasonable period of time, before penalties could kick in,” Solomons said. “So if somebody made a complaint and had some evidence, the attorney general’s office would investigate it, if they thought there was a problem.” If the Attorney General’s office is unable to find a way to resolve the issue with the municipality, it would then go to court.
In response to warnings from Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) and others that the law would create an unfunded mandate on municipalities, Solomons found irony. “Quite frankly it’s sort of interesting because … almost every city and county says, ‘We’re not sanctuary. We don’t have sanctuary policies,’” Solomons said. “Houston says ‘this is not a sanctuary policy. … We don’t have those policies in effect.’ So where’s my mandate? There’s no mandate. The mandate is that if you think you have a policy, or you do have a policy, you shouldn’t have that. …
“They talk about time management and cost, [but] most of them said they don’t have any issues anyway. Nothing’s going to change. And they may have a point. If somebody does present evidence, and bring it to the Attorney General’s office, they can evaluate it, they can decide if there is something there, they can probably maybe resolve the issue, but if it can’t be resolved they can go to court, and they can get it resolved. And then once and for all everybody will know what’s going on.”