Two bills are making their way through the final steps of the legislative process . . .
HB1937 passed the House on Friday. It will make the TSA pat-downs that require a TSA agent to get up close and personal a misdemeanor. In the bill analysis, author Rep. David Simpson defends the bill on the basis of unconstitutional searches of citizens. HB1937 also makes it illegal for a public official to perform a search for the purpose of granting access to a public building. The bill changes the existing law by specifying that even officers of federal agencies may not search and grope people without probable cause.
HB1937 has passed the House. Next step: call you state senators and encourage them to support HB 1937.
HB12 has been labeled the “sanctuary city” bill. Under this bill, no city, county, special district or law enforcement authority may have a policy that prevents officers from checking the immigration status of someone lawfully detained. Currently, if someone is arrested and charged with a crime, his or her immigration status is checked using the same federal databases listed in HB12. The difference is, HB12 would allow officers to check the status of someone pulled over for a traffic violation, or pulled aside for questioning.
The most alarming part of HB12 is that once immigration data is gathered, local law enforcement must share the data with federal agencies and allow federal officers access to their facilities. The bill states, “assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable and necessary, including providing enforcement assistance, or . . . permitting a federal immigration officer to enter and conduct enforcement activities at a municipal or county jail.” Though 19 amendments were proposed to the bill during the third reading, not one considered the implications of opening our local jails to federal law enforcement.
Rep. Carol Alvarado, 145, from Houston proposed to remove the word “detained” because it is not specific enough. In other words, the bill expands the scope of situations in which law enforcement would check the immigration status of people with whom they come into contact. Rep. Jessica Ferrar, 148, also from Houston, proposed an amendment to restrict officers from questioning the immigration status of witnesses to and victims of crimes. She said it would be very difficult for officers to investigate crimes if victims refuse to report them because they are afraid of being questioned about immigration status. An unintended consequence of the bill is that it may make the police seem hostile to anyone who speaks Spanish or has a Mexican heritage, whether they are in the country legally or not. If people feel that the police have an unjust authority to pry into immigration issues, they may stop cooperating with the police. A person does not have to be an illegal immigrant to feel that these laws impose on their rights. Rep. Alvarado said no police chief asked for HB12. She said it is hypocritical for the Texas House to stand up to the federal government and then abuse state power by imposing on police departments in this way. She had a good point, but the Republicans in the House were too busy getting signatures on a movement to suspend debate to pay attention to her arguments.
Amendment 17 by Rep. Pete Gallego, 74, of Alpine would have required anyone who cannot provide proof of legal status be given written information of rights and contact information to his or her home country’s embassy. The amendment failed with no debate about the justification of arresting people who may not know their rights.
Amendment 14 by Rep. Jose Menendez, 124, San Antonio would have required every traffic stop to include an immigration check. His argument was that the law should apply equally to every person instead of singling out a particular group. Instead of defending the law as written, the Republicans refused to engage in the debate.
Whatever one’s opinion on HB 12, the legislative process requires three opportunities for floor debate on every bill in the House. Debate is necessary to write good and just laws. With HB12, the super-majority of Republicans allowed a bill to pass without debate, though the opposition brought many valid concerns to the floor.
Next step: Call the members of the Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Committee before the hearing on May 18. Let them know that HB12 needs to be fixed so it doesn’t violate the sovereignty of Texas law enforcement or encourage racial discrimination.
How can the group of people who passed HB1937 (138-0, 1 not voting) also pass HB12 (100-47, 1 not voting)? At least 83 representatives voted for both bills. One bill stands up for people to freely move throughout the country without being inconvenienced or accosted or harassed by officers of any uniform or authority. The other bill strongly encourages more involvement of federal and local officers in the movement of the people.
What can an observer conclude but that Texas State Representatives are being blown about by every political wind rather than standing on principles that protect life, liberty and property?