“Sanctuary cities” ban passes the House

I suppose we should get used to the phrase “cutting off debate” because that seems to be the norm these days.

After taking the unusual and controversial strategy of cutting off debate, the Texas House late Monday voted 99 to 47 in favor of a ban on “sanctuary cities,” despite objections that the measure was unnecessary and will increase racial profiling against Hispanics.

House Republicans voted to end debate by calling for an immediate vote on the bill, shutting down debate on amendments after four hours of sometimes heated discussion.

Democrats roundly criticized the tactic almost as emotionally as the underlying legislation, and faulted House Speaker Joe Straus for allowing the maneuver.

“Is this the intended course that the chair intends to exercise as we proceed?” asked State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. “If the chair along with the super-majority — if they will simply let the rest of us know — which bills they intend to have proceed regardless of debate and points of order — they will save us a lot of time and effort. No question the super-majority can pass any bill at any time.”

It’s just that, as Burka pointed out, they’ve taken their sweet time about it, and the combination of a few successful points of order, a late-in-the-day “emergency” tort reform bill, and the need to deal with remaining items like redistricting have put them in a bind. As Pete Gallego noted, calling the question like this hardly ever happened in previous sessions under other Speakers, but now seems to be a matter of routine. It’s hard to see this as anything but a deep sense of insecurity about the ability to pass their own agenda in the face of any kind of opposition. The Republicans did allow some debate and amendments before passing the bill on third reading, not that it really mattered at that point.

As for the bill itself, what else is there to say? It’s an offensive solution to a non-problem, one that will impose large unfunded costs on local law enforcement agencies and which makes a mockery of the alleged Republican value of local control. It’s evil and fascistic for the federal government to tell states what to do, but good and just for states to tell cities what to do. What should happen as a result of this is that police departments decide that in order to fully comply with the law they need to ask everyone for proof of citizenship whenever they pull them over for a traffic stop or whatever. How many of the people cheering on this bill’s passage routinely carry their passport or birth certificate – the long form, naturally – on them? That won’t happen, of course, because it’s “obvious” that some people are citizens, and hey, this is America, right? More for some of us than for others, I guess. Statements from Reps. Carol Alvarado, Jessica Farrar, and Garnet Coleman are beneath the fold, and there’s more from EoW, Burka and Burka again, Trail Blazers, Postcards, Texas Politics, and the Trib. Be sure to read the exceptionally ugly comments there if you have any doubt about how supporters of this bill perceive it. And then, to cleanse your mind, watch Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna’s personal privilege speech about growing up as an undocumented immigrant (thanks to Texas Politics for the link). If you think the country and the state would be better off today if Rep. Hernandez Luna and her family had been deported, I don’t know what to say to you.

State Representative Carol Alvarado’s statement on the passage of HB 12, the Sanctuary Cities bill:

“It is unfortunate that the debate on House Bill 12, the Sanctuary Cities bill, was brought to an abrupt halt tonight. With a bill of this magnitude and its long-lasting effects on Texans of all backgrounds, the debate should have been allowed to continue.

The Sanctuary Cities bill provides Texans with a false sense of security. Regardless of how many immigration cases a local law enforcement agency handles, or how many people ICE deports, the fact remains that the federal government has failed to secure our borders and provide the comprehensive immigration reform this country truly needs.

House Bill 12 undermines the trust, discretion and authority our police chiefs, sheriffs, and local governments have in directing their officers to protect our neighborhoods. When a routine traffic stop that normally would have taken one officer and fifteen minutes turns into an hour-long immigration check that unnecessarily ties up a department’s resources – only the real bad guys win.”

State Rep. Jessica Farrar’s statement on HB12:

There is no such thing as a “sanctuary city” in Texas. Governor Perry has invented the fantasy of local police departments providing safe harbor for undocumented immigrants. Police and sheriff’s departments throughout the state formulate immigration enforcement policies with the singular goal of keeping the community safe. Nonetheless, the Governor has predictably seized the opportunity to score political points at the expense of helpless, voiceless residents with the promotion of House Bill 12 by Representative Burt Solomons (R-Carrolton). This bill forbids law enforcement agencies from setting policies with regard to immigration enforcement, allowing each individual officer to enforce–or not enforce–federal laws at a whim.

Before the House shut down debate, I planned to offer two amendments to HB 12 . The first would have forbidden peace officers from asking about the immigration status of victims or witnesses to criminal acts. This is an essential provision. When victims and witnesses fail to report crimes because of a fear of deportation, the security of the entire community is compromised. Police departments and sheriffs have worked hard in recent years to implement proven tactics of “community policing,” where building trusting relationships with community members–including immigrants–helps to ensure more reported crimes, more convictions, and lower incidence rates for domestic abuse and other violent crimes.

The second amendment I planned to offer would have exempted counties from the requirements of the bill. I offered this amendment because, in my experience, counties are not part of the problem, but in fact have been at the forefront of providing effective solutions. In Harris County, over 12,000 criminals who lacked documentation were removed from the United States since 2008, due to the county sheriff’s department’s cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in vetting county jail detainees for immigration violations.

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. 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.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman’s statement on HB12:

This is bad public policy. Torn between the extremes of their party and the interests of business, Republicans continue to send the conflicting message of ‘keep out’ and ‘help wanted.’

This bill is more than just mean spirited. It ties the hands of local police departments and prevents them from making the decisions they feel are best for their communities. It ensures that children in this state are born a suspect by simple virtue of the color of their skin.

Republicans should just be honest. This isn’t about immigration. This is about appeasing the mean and extreme factions of their party at the expense of the state and the institution of the House. This is an expression of hate in the form of legislation.

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One Response to “Sanctuary cities” ban passes the House

  1. Cam says:

    The reader comments to the articles you linked should come with a health warning.

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