On May 21 aka Judgment Day, Jesus didn’t resurrect but couple of weeks later something did come back from being dead. Texas, with the mobilization of its large Hispanic population coupled with countless number of business organizations, thought that as session ended last month that they had killed any major anti-immigrant bill from passing the Texas legislature (which included bills that would check immigration status of students in elementary school, prohibit ‘sanctuary cities’, mandate E-Verify and expand Secure Communities). While the 2011 Texas legislature (with Republican supermajority in the House and near supermajority in the Senate) was very hostile to immigrants, as the regular session ended, a point of order was raised to kill HB-12, which prohibited cities, counties and other governmental entities from stopping law enforcement from asking people’s immigration status.
While the Texas legislature was debating whether to take away education from undocumented students, how to restrict abortion and passing a “noodling” bill, there wasn’t enough time to finish the appropriation bill that funds all Texas expenses and to ‘gerrymander’ the four new congressional district given to Texas. Governor Perry called a special session last week to deal with these issues. He added SB 9 a bill Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) that packages three controversial immigration items to the special session. SB 9, unlike HB 12, not only includes the Sanctuary Cities provisions but also the mandates the use of Secure communities and a provision that requires the DPS to check citizenship status of each person with a driver license or a state official ID.
Let’s look at the first provision of ‘prohibiting’ sanctuary cities. The biggest problem to this provision is that there are NO sanctuary cities in Texas–even the governor couldn’t name one. The main function of the provision is to restrict cities, municipalities and special districts from restricting its police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they pull over. Gov. Perry believes that “Texas owes its law enforcement officials…to give them the discretion they need to adequately do their job.” That would be true, unless you listen to countless law enforcement officials across the state testify against a similar bill that came up in the House in the regular session. According to the law enforcement officials, this provision would take away resources from fighting violent crimes and relocate it to enforce federal immigration law. It also destroys the relationship between police officers and immigrant communities and increase racial profiling. The second provision puts Texas on the wrong side of the wave of the issue of Secure Communities. As numerous states and municipalities such as New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are pulling out of the federal program; Texas is moving on the other direction by mandating Secure Communities in city and municipality jails (it is already implemented on all Texas county jails). Secure Communities places federal agents in jails to check immigration status; the “official purpose” is to deport violent criminals but according to studies, around half of the people deported under the program had no criminal convictions and only one-fourth had been deported for committing serious crimes. This, like the first provision, would create an environment of distrust between law enforcement and the immigrant community causing numerous crimes to go unreported. The Secure Communities program has also been questioned by many for not fulfilling its true duty of deporting violent criminals; it would be very unwise to mandate this program in all city and county jails. The third provision would require DPS to check citizenship of anyone trying to get an official state ID. This would definitely increase the cost on the state by needing to train all DPS workers to identify numerous number of visas specially at a time when Texas has a huge budget deficit and hundred of millions of dollars of cuts in education. Needless to say, this provision in not needed.
So we ask the people of Texas to rise up against this type of anti-immigrant hysteria and oppose SB 9 to keep Texas safer. Call Governor Rick Perry at 1-877-673-8522 and sign the petition to oppose SB 9.