The full Senate had its first chance yesterday to debate banning Sanctuary Cities in Texas. Just after lunch, Senators commenced their arguments for or against the motion to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Over the next three hours, all twelve Democrats repeated questions and talking points to discredit the bill as unnecessary at best, and discriminatory at worst.
The debate prompted Republican Sen. Jane Nelson to stand and lament what she called the large amount of “misinformation” swirling around this bill.
Perry took it a step further, calling it outright “fear-mongering.”
Readers will remember from our previous alert from the committee hearing that the bill requires cities and counties to comply with federal requests to detain suspected illegal immigrants. These detainment requests from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) are only triggered after a person is arrested and booked for a separate crime and his or her name is flagged by the feds.
Perry reiterated numerous times that the bill only applies to persons already lawfully arrested. Under his bill, police would not be instructed to ask about the immigration status of people halted for traffic citations or other petty offenses that do not end in arrest. He and other Senators insisted this bill would not turn local law enforcement officials into federal immigration enforcement agents.
Sen. Royce West and Sen. Sylvia Garcia in particular raised concerns about the potential violation of individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights. Sen. John Whitmire was worried about Latino communities being afraid to speak to or cooperate with police for fear of unintentional self-incrimination. To the questions on racial profiling, Perry responded that existing laws against profiling would not be changed. Referring to fears of souring police-community relations, he pointed to language in his bill which prevents law enforcement officers from turning illegal immigrants over to Federal agents if they are victims of, or cooperating as witnesses to a crime.
During his exchange with Sen. Whitmire, Perry read a list of Texans killed by illegal immigrants to emphasize the need for the legislation. Earlier, Sen. Joan Huffman discussed her experience with victims of such crimes, arguing they might have been spared had those here illegally been previously deported.
Finally, the motion to bring the bill forward prevailed, and Sen. Perry was able to present the bill to the body for a vote. Then on “second reading,” (“first reading” being the committee phase), Senators were able to offer amendments to the bill. There were thirty-nine in all–debate on which took another three hours.
Most amendments were killed on party lines, but a few were acceptable to Sen. Perry and were approved.
Today, the body voted, again along party lines to “read” the bill for a third time, and finally passed it.
Next, the bill moves on to the House, where committee assignments have not yet been announced.
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