Texas Senate Opens Hearing On Immigration Bill

AUSTIN (AP) – Dallas and Houston law enforcement officials said Monday that they oppose legislation that would free up officers in so-called sanctuary cities to ask about the immigration status of anyone pulled over during a traffic stop, questioned as a witness or otherwise detained.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified at a Senate hearing that the immigration bill the Legislature is likely to approve could make immigrants afraid to report crimes and cause the further crowding of jails.

“Jails should have the room for people we are afraid of, not the people we are upset with,” Valdez said.

Governor Rick Perry added immigration enforcement measures to the call of the Legislature’s special session last week and the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing on Monday.

The bill would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from adopting policies to bar officers from asking people they pull over or otherwise detain whether they are in the country legally. Agencies that adopted such policies would lose access to state grants.

None of Texas’ major cities claims to be a sanctuary city, but many police departments discourage their officers from asking about immigration status.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said police take an oath to uphold the law, both federal and state, and should be freed up to ask about detainees’ immigration status because they could catch criminals or aspiring terrorists who slipped into the country.

The bill sends “a loud and clear message to criminal aliens that we will not tolerate their presence in Texas,” Williams said.

Monday’s hearing was packed with opponents of the bill, who argue that police authority to detain someone is too vague and will lead to racial profiling against Latinos and the further distrust of police among immigrant communities.

“You get a climate of fear,” said Olga Garza Kaufman, of San Antonio, who was born in Mexico and later moved to Texas with her family. “My parents were perfectly legal, but they were afraid of police. That’s what happens when you have a culture that does not value its immigrants.”

Senate Democrats have fiercely opposed the bill and were able to block it during the regular session. But Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate and voting rules that helped Democrats block the bill wouldn’t apply in the special session, clearing the way for the bill’s likely passage.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, suggested it would be unlikely that a white woman with blonde hair and light eyes, such as herself, would be asked about her immigration status during a traffic stop.

McClelland estimated it would cost his department more than $4 million to train 5,000 Houston police on immigration matters and Valdez estimated it would cost her jail an extra $467,000 a month to house immigration violators until they are picked up by federal immigration officers.

Republican committee members tried to rally support for the bill, arguing that it allows but does not mandate immigration status checks and that it wouldn’t go as far as other states have in trying to enforce immigration in public schools, rental housing and other areas.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, noted that Texas allows illegal immigrants who graduate high school in the state to pay in-state tuition to public universities.

Perry and Senate Republicans have argued that the federal immigration enforcement has failed and that Texas must protect its own borders.

“We go above and beyond,” Shapiro said. “There are states all over this country are putting these harsh immigration laws in place in sheer frustration that the federal government has turned a blind eye.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. RussP says:

    So law enforcement officials in Dallas and Houston want to prevent a law that would allow their officers to enforce the law, isn’t that sad? If someone is caught breaking any law, whether local, state or federal, it should be required that the officer deal with it. If that means just a citation, fine. If that means bringing them into jail to be handed off to federal authorities, than that is what they should do.

    This is the same mentallity that allowed an illegal immigrant that already had two DWIs on his record and no license to kill someone while driving drunk last week. If local law enforcment was required to deal with his immigration status, he could have already been out of the country.

  2. luckyjimbeaux says:

    Astronomical amounts of cash flow across our southern border, just from day laborers alone, and the jobs that they ‘take’ are just what so many struggling citizens (as in legal) need right now to get back on their feet.

    Local enforcement of immigration laws is the first step.
    Next, businesses who hire illegals must be held accountable….criminally accountable.
    Securing our borders means being sure that our brave border patrol ‘troops’ have all the resources they need, but these sanctuary communities are undermining their efforts.

  3. darrell says:

    dallas county sheriff valdez seems to approve of those who violate federal law. illegal is illegal, no matter how you slice it. round them up, send them home.
    most americans who cant find jobs live in cities. most illegals working jobs americans could have live in these cities. do the math.
    many dont obey our laws, dont pay taxes, use valuable resorces meant for “real” americans, overcrowd our schools straining their budgets.
    the reason law enforcement does not want to deal with it is because they generate no revenue. police are only interested in arresting those who commit major crimes or who either owe fines allready or that they can get into the system to create new revenue. DA’s and judges like it because high conviction rates look good at election time. its all money and politics while real americans pay the bills.
    if elected and appointed officials cant enforce laws that allready exist they should not be in those positions.

  4. marilyn49 says:

    If people come into this country illegally and unlike legal citizens we know nothing about them–how can we tell the difference betwenn the killers, the pedifiles, the ones that use “my”ssn and “yours’ illegally, the ones that come “for a better life” at the expense of my tax dollar and yours, and the ones that come to deal in drugs, traffic people, or come to just work. You tell me how we know the difference. I am so sick of this pandering to a minority group that would not be allowed to use these excuses if they were white people from a poor third world country who just “wanted to work”.

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