5/10/2011 2:14 PM
The House moments ago finally passed House Bill 12, a bill that prohibits “sanctuary city” policies. The bill will head for the Senate where, considering its unanimous Democratic opposition in the House, may have a hard time getting two-thirds support to suspend.
It concluded debate on the bill that began on Friday, when the House deliberated on five amendments, each debated on for lengthy periods of time, before the bill was at last popped on a point of order. It was reheard in committee that night and passed back out. It then came back up on the floor yesterday.
At that point, the bill passed second reading. Debate was allowed and amendments were offered for a couple of hours. But ultimately the previous question was called and the bill passed.
"The passage today of House Bill 12 provides for the implementation of a consistent standard across the state in setting illegal immigration policies,” Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), legislative director of the Hispanic Republican Conference, said last night. “This bill will be the core of a renewed spirit of cooperation and trust between law enforcement and the citizens of Texas."
Bill author Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton) accepted amendments last night to exempt hospitals from the bill, and to clarify that the bill does not permit racial profiling.
House Democratic leader Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) also issued a statement on passage last night. “I chose to vote against HB 12, because I believe the legislation is an attempt at political theater that fails to address real issues that arise regarding the treatment of undocumented residents who commit serious crimes,” she said. “This bill takes the state in the wrong direction. Law enforcement efforts will be inhibited, especially in Latino communities, where trust and cooperation with law enforcement has been on the rise in recent years due to sustained community relations efforts by police. The effective tools of community policing will be replaced with racial profiling, a method which is as ineffective as it is unjust. The effects of HB 12 will hinder law enforcement agents in apprehending criminals and solving crimes. The Texas Legislature can do better.”
Democrats today offered over a dozen amendments to the bill on third reading, each of which went down in flames. On third reading amendments require 100 votes to attach. In several cases, the amendments received a 100 or more votes against.
Several Democrats spoke against the bill when it came up for final passage.
Naomi Gonzalez (D-El Paso) spoke against the House Bill “not to grandstand,” but to be able to look herself in the eye and know that I did the right thing and stood up.
This opens up the door for the government to infringe on civil liberties, she argued. She also said that the bill violates the U.S. Constitution.
Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) said for him House Bill 12 was “personal” because he is the son of immigrants, as are many of his constituents. Many of them are also non-citizens and even undocumented, he said.
Democrats throughout he debate have protested that there seems to be no set definition of “sanctuary” policies or records of local governing bodies that admit to enforcing such policies. But Anchia spoke at length of the ROTC program at Thomas Jefferson High School near his district. Nearly half of the students in that program are undocumented, or at least non-citizens, he said, an able to remain in it because of a policy at Dallas ISD that law enforcement officials don’t ask about immigration status. HB 12 would do away with that policy, he said.
Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) repeated that the bill represented the “ugly face of the Republican Party” and cited the bill as evidence that there is no more moderate leadership.
Trey Martinez-Fischer (D-San Antonio) said the bill was aimed “directly at Latinos.” He called the passage of the bill “weakness and lack of judgment. He observed that this is the four-month anniversary of Gov. Rick Perry declaring sanctuary cities an “emergency.” Concluding his remarks, he recalled Speaker Joe Straus’ speech when he first became speaker in 2009, calling on the members to work together collegially across party lines. Martinez-Fischer faced Straus and declared, without saying his name, that he was “a man I can no longer recognize, and I wish it weren’t so.”
Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), responding to Democratic suggestions that the Republicans were merely responding to the demands of the far right, said he did not respect having his motivations and positions characterized for him. He spoke of Rick Salter, an undercover officer who specialized in narcotics investigations. He led Houston officers through a door in March 2009 and was confronted by an individual who had been arrested multiple times before, and was given opportunities to simply be deported. The criminal alien shot Salter in the face. Salter now does not have use of the left side of his body. But he showed up in Austin to support the bill, Bonnen recalled.
Bonnen said the reason he supports HB 12 is for men like Salter and others who suffer violence at the hands of illegal immigrants. It is vital that members understand there are two sides to this discussion, Bonnen said.
Solomons said he prides himself for trying to take on and try to address and resolve issues in ways that make sense. “These issues do get talked about in our districts,” he said.