Anti-Immigrant Bill Fails In Texas

You’d need a diagram to figure out exactly how it happened, but suffice it to say that the state senators in Texas gathered their marbles and went home. And just like that SB9, a bill that would ban sanctuary cities in the State of Texas, died.

A summary of what the bill does, according to the Texas Tribune:

Texas law enforcement officials will be allowed to inquire about the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. Any local entity that refuses to allow its peace officers to do so would be denied state funding. SB 9 also strengthens regulations for anyone applying for a driver’s license or state-issued ID. In addition, it expands the federal government’s Secure Communities initiative to every detention facility in the state. (It’s already in every county jail.)

Texas Governor Rick Perry had listed this issue as a priority when the state legislative session began months ago. But the legislature didn’t get around to it in regular session, so Perry added it to a special session to-do list. Funny thing is that after he added the sanctuary cities issue to the special session list he made a speech at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in San Antonio and didn’t go anywhere near mentioning the bill. So much for priorities. The speech fell famously flat.

You’d need the diagram to figure out exactly what happened next.

The Texas Senate passed the bill after impassioned opposition speeches from every Latino senator in the state. The bill was then sent to the House, where it made its way to committee. Meanwhile the clock was ticking on the special legislative session.

But for several days and for several called meetings the House State Affairs Committee, that was supposed to hold hearings on the bill, had to postpone for lack of a quorum. With the special session dwindling into its final hours there seemed to be no life left in the bill.

Then the Senators went home  for the summer.

The end-all move came from the Senate when its members ended their special session sine die, once and for all – no room for compromises, no time for politics.

So there it sits, the ball is now in the Governor’s court with vague ripples of a rumor of a second special session. The problem is that all of the items on Perry’s to-do list, save for the sanctuary cities bill, were approved; there’s really no business left undone.

Big business had its say.

The other thing to consider is that the dimming glow of life that the sanctuary cities bill had in its final hours was doused with opposition from two prominent businessmen and political contributors. Homebuilder Bob Perry and supermarket magnate Charles Butt paid a lobbyist to suggest changes to the bill. The Houston Chronicle sums it up:

“These are two prominent, very smart, very successful businessmen in Texas who understand what the implication would be, what the unintended consequences of the legislation would be,” said (Rep. Carol) Alvarado, who argued the bill would lead to racial profiling of Hispanics. “They realize, too, that it’s almost inhumane. Anyone who is Latino could get pulled over and live in fear and that has consequences.”
She said she sensed the House committee’s inaction demonstrated “there may not be the political will to get this done.”
“People realize the only reason we are going through this exercise is that this is something the governor wants. He is all over the country bragging about what Texas is doing and how conservative his agenda is,” she said. “So, people are realizing we are going through this exercise to please somebody who is running for president.”

We’re left with no anti-immigrant bill, an apparent schism in the Republican party and a bunch of disgruntled state Representatives, angry at the state Senate for going home. Oh, and  a Governor with thinly veiled presidential aspirations is left with one less thing to pad his conservative resume.

Law enforcement administrators from the largest cities in Texas were opposed to the bill; they said it was a burden and hampered their work. Latino political, community and organization leaders can call this a victory, although the bill was not really defeated; it just ran out of gas.

The outcome is that the bill failed and the special session is done. We’ll see if the Governor/unannounced presidential candidate calls for another special session and takes the debate up a notch. Smart money says he won’t do it.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by Dave_B_]

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