November 17, 2008
The Riddler versus the undocumented

The Texas Observer tells of some pre-filing mischief by State Rep. Debbie Riddle.

House Bill 50 would bar undocumented immigrants from paying in-state tuition. Similar bills failed last session. HB 48 would allow for state investigations into employers who have "knowingly" hired illegal immigrants. The Texas Workforce Commission could, through a tribunal process, strip the employer of state-issued licenses. (Call it the Brown Scare: "Mr. Smith, are you now or have you ever been the employer of an ILLEGAL ALIEN?")

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has watched The Riddler in action. She's basically a hater, and this is her idea of good public policy. But while HB50 is just noxious, I'm rather amused by HB48, which would seem to be a pretty burdensome regulation on businesses. I thought conservatives were supposed to be against that sort of thing. I guess now we know what's more powerful than the free market ideology, at least for The Riddler.

A third bill, HB 49, has received much less attention. It would create a new misdemeanor offense -- Criminal Trespass By Illegal Aliens -- that would appear to apply to a virtually limitless number of border-hoppers. Under the legislation, cops would be authorized to arrest individuals believed to be "trespassing" in Texas, among other federal immigration violations. Riddle's new trespassing crime is in fact a state application of long-standing federal statutes that prohibit illegal entry into the U.S.

In recent years, federal prosecutors, working with the Border Patrol, have clogged Texas border courts with immigration cases. It's part of the Bush administration's "Operation Streamline," a zero-tolerance program that aims to charge, convict, and deport every single apprehended illegal entrant.

That's not good enough for Riddle. Her bill would dramatically widen this dragnet by allowing local law enforcement in on the game. The concern among immigrant rights groups is whether it's appropriate for local cops to essentially enforce federal immigration laws.

Well, that would be one way to ensure that Texas' prison population resumed its previous rate of growth. Enlisting local law enforcement in this kind of task has proven to be an unmitigated disaster for the people of Maricopa County in Arizona under the misadministration of their notoriously xenophobic sheriff, not that Riddle would care; once again, it's the ideology that matters, not the effect. Consider this another good reason to hope for a different Speaker this session, since any Speaker worth his or her salt will ensure a role for the likes of Riddle that's commensurate with her worth and abilities. Stace has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 17, 2008 to That's our Lege

I actually covered Riddle's odd little bill about 14 hours before the Texas Observer got around to covering it. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think I actually broke the story on that bill.

Posted by: Vince Leibowitz on November 17, 2008 7:43 PM
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