The state’s contentious sanctuary cities bill failed to move out of the Senate late Tuesday — a move some senators said effectively killed one of the most controversial measures the Texas Legislature has considered this session.
As late as 11 p.m., an aide to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the Senate leader was still intent on bringing up the matter for a vote. (The Senate debates bills on the floor in the order they come in. Going out of order requires a two-thirds vote.)
But Republicans' efforts were unsuccessful on Tuesday. Democratic senators stayed true to their word to block the bill — an item designated by Gov. Rick Perry as an emergency piece of legislation — by voting along party lines to keep the bill from making it to the floor.
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With the way the legislation has come, gone, and come back again several times this session, opponents of the bill would be well advised to hold off on celebrating until the session officially expires Monday. As recently as last Wednesday the measure was believed dead after Williams replaced the text of the bill with a committee substitute that instead addressed homeland and border security issues. It was revived two days later when Williams made a motion in a Senate committee to reverse the switch and revert back to the immigration-related language. If the legislation is truly incapable of surviving the remaining days of the session, Perry could possibly bring lawmakers back to Austin for a special session in July to tackle the measure.
A portion of a multifaceted homeland security bill that appeared near dead earlier was successfully attached tonight to a House bill relating to the deportation of illegal immigrants who have been incarcerated and released from prison.
SB 9, by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was left pending in the House Calendars Committee after sailing through the Senate last month. The deadline to set a House calendar was Sunday, and SB 9 didn’t make the cut. But today Williams attached a piece of SB 9 — the part that requires the names of all persons arrested to be run through the federal Secure Communities initiative — as an amendment to HB 2734 by state Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano.
Secure Communities is a program administered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in which local law enforcement compares the fingerprints of those arrested to a DHS database to determine if the individual can be deported. The system is currently in place in county jails statewide, but Williams said there are “loopholes” — specifically, local jails that do not transfer arrested persons to county lock-ups.
Madden’s bill would require that illegal immigrants who are arrested be released to the custody of ICE and leave the country as soon as possible.
March 30th was a seemingly ordinary Wednesday for Nazry Mustakin, who awoke and got ready for work just as he'd done many times before. Then, Nazry (his wife and his friends call him Naz) heard an authoritative knock on the door of his Waco, Texas home. Four armed agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stood on his front porch, dressed in riot gear.
Naz's wife, Hope, was baffled as officers entered her home only to inform the newlywed couple that Naz's green card had been revoked. As federal agents took Naz away, Hope was left alone, confused and terrified. Naz is a model citizen, beloved in his community for his commitment to service, his dedication to the indigent, and his deep faith in God. Now, Naz faces deportation proceedings as he waits in a federal detention facility 60 miles away from home.
No doubt, this event would strain anyone's marriage, but Naz and Hope have not given up. The 25-year-old Hope has made a remarkable new life out of fighting for her husband's release. Hope's website, WeSupportNaz.com is the focal point of her struggle to keep Naz from being deported to his native Singapore. The website is essentially an online grassroots campaign that features support letters, fundraising tools, supporter videos, local news coverage, an active newsfeed, and a petition sponsored by Change.org.
What Hope has done is truly inspirational, and the support she's received is a testament not only to her work ethic, but to the kind of man Naz Mustakin is. An active member of his local church, Naz has taken the lead on several faith-based community service programs. He is active in both local and regional Narcotics Anonymous groups. He has earned associate degrees from a local technical college. He is a homeowner, an active volunteer in his community, a valued employee and a beloved husband to a United States citizen.
So why is Naz facing this crisis? Earlier in his life, Naz was the unfortunate victim of peer pressure and the irresponsibility of youth. Alcohol and recreational drugs became Naz's outlet from the troubles of life as an outsider in a "predominantly white" area, where Naz struggled to fit in. When Naz was caught and arrested, he was sentenced to six months of rehabilitation. Naz took the opportunity to put his life back together, and he soon began volunteering and working for the organization that had once helped him turn his life around. Years into his comeback, Naz met his wife (in 2009), and together they built the strong foundation for their future together.
Naz has long since been fully rehabilitated and has become a true asset to his community. If immigration officials would stop and listen to Naz's wife and Church, they would see the picture a man giving of himself to better his surroundings. They would see that Naz is an upstanding man who deserves to stay home with his family and his community. Stand in solidarity with Naz Mustakin and Tell D.H.S. to keep Naz in the U.S.
Excellent report on the ties between private prison companies and the push to increase immigration detention:
Since the late 1990’s, the number of people held in immigration detention has exploded. On any given day, ICE detains over 33,000 immigrants; this is more than triple the number of people detained in 1996. In the last 5 years alone, the annual number of immigrants detained and the costs of detaining them has doubled: in 2009, 383,524 immigrants were detained, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion at an average of $122 a day per bed. Nearly 2.5 million individuals have passed through immigration detention facilities since 2003.
Although private corporations have long exercised influence over detention policy in a variety of contexts, a recent accumulation of evidence indicates that the main contractors involved in the explosive growth of the immigration detention system have been involved in heavy lobbying at the federal level.
A homeland security bill that was a major factor in whether the state’s sanctuary cities legislation — one of Gov. Rick Perry's emergency items — would be signed into law failed to get placed on a House calendar for this week.
Sunday was the deadline to set bills. Even though the House Calendars committee met, once in a formal meeting and later during its annual committee dinner, no action was taken on SB 9.
The bill, by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is an omnibus homeland security bill that would, among other things, require all law enforcement agencies to adopt Secure Communities, institute stronger penalties for a laundry list of felonies codify proof-of-citizenship requirements for driver's licenses and state-issued IDs. It would also establish an automatic license-plate reader pilot program for vehicles used by DPS officers. The House last week added measures that included language on southbound checkpoints, E-Verify, states' rights and new laws involving the distribution of seized assets.
Last week, Williams, frustrated that SB 9 was languishing in a House committee after passing the Senate 26 to 5, turned the tables on the House: He accepted a committee substitute for HB 12, the sanctuary cities bill, which essentially gutted the immigration-related language and replaced it with his SB 9. The Senate bill made it out of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on Friday, however, and Williams subsequently made a motion to accept HB 12 with the sanctuary cities language intact during a later committee meeting. It was placed on today’s Senate intent calendar, which means it can see floor action anytime before Wednesday’s deadline for the upper chamber to consider House bills.
When asked what was next and if Williams had any procedural maneuvers in mind to revive SB 9, his office declined to comment.
With eight days remaining in the session, all eyes are on the 31-member Senate. The 12 Democrats can block HB 12 from reaching the floor for debate if the Senate follows tradition and requires two-thirds of the body needs to agree to get a bill to the floor. They have already distributed a letter to their colleagues urging a vote against the measure.
“We have concerns about racially profiling our citizens under the guise of cracking down on so-called 'sanctuary cities,' the letter said. "There is a tremendous risk that such legislation would inadvertently target legal citizens of Texas, solely because they fall within a certain ethnic demographic.”
One Democratic senator, José Rodríguez of El Paso, went further in explaining his opposition to the bill at a Monday morning press conference. “HB 12, in my view, is driven by fear — fear of the growing political and socio economic influence of Latinos on this community,” he said.
Sanctuary cities legislation was revived today and will be sent to the Texas Senate for consideration.
In another surprise move by the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security committee, Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, made a motion to reconsider a vote the committee took Wednesday that replaced the original language of House Bill 12, the sanctuary cities legislation. It would prohibit local governmental entities from adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status of people lawfully detained or arrested. The issue was designated an emergency item by Gov. Rick Perry and the bill passed the House earlier this month on a party line vote.
But the substitute Williams accepted Wednesday gutted the sanctuary cities language from HB 12, and replaced it with language from one of his own bills, SB 9, an omnibus homeland security bill that had passed the Senate but was stuck in a House committee. Friday, the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security took up SB 9, however, and voted it out.
The motion to reconsider the vote in the Senate committee passed on a party line vote, 5 to 3. Williams then made a motion to consider HB 12 as it was passed out of the full House earlier this month, with the sanctuary cities language in tact. The motion passed on the same party line vote.
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When SB 9 was voted out of the House committee today, it had several pieces of separate legislation attached — so much so that Chairman Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, agreed it was a Christmas tree. Williams said there was still time to address those concerns.
“I think I made it clear and I stand by the commitment I made to my colleagues about Senate Bill 9 and I will continue to honor that,” he said. “The House has to take care of their business and we’ll go to conference.”
SB 9 would require all law enforcement agencies to adopt Secure Communities, a program administered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in which local law enforcement compares the fingerprints of those arrested to a DHS database to determine if the individual can be deported. The bill also would institute stronger penalties for a laundry list of felonies. It would codify proof-of-citizenship requirements for driver's licenses and state-issued IDs. It would establish an automatic license-plate reader pilot program for vehicles used by DPS officers, and it allows DPS to commission special unit of Texas Rangers to, among other things, conduct background checks, monitor sex offenders and assist during disasters.
GOP state Reps. Bill Zedler, of Arlington, and Erwin Cain, of Como, have also filed amendments to a budget bill the House is expected to debate today that would effectively repeal the in-state tuition provision.
In a surprise move that could effectively kill HB 12, the sanctuary cities bill that Gov. Rick Perry declared an emergency item, a Senate committee today replaced the immigration language with a homeland security bill by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.
The move could be deadly for the sanctuary cities legislation because the Williams bill, which was offered as a substitute to HB 12 by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, does not contain any language about local law enforcement checking immigration status.
The homeland security bill, SB 9, which is also a controversial measure, was passed out of the Senate last month. It doesn’t have a House sponsor, though, and the House committee didn’t vote on it Tuesday. The bill would require all law enforcement agencies to adopt the federal Secure Communities program. It also would institute stronger penalties for a laundry list of felonies and codify proof-of-citizenship requirements for driver's licenses and state-issued IDs. It would establish an automatic license-plate reader pilot program for vehicles used by Department of Public Safety officers. It does not, however, prohibit local governments from preventing police from asking people about their citizenship. That means it wouldn’t put an end to sanctuary cities. The committee approved the new bill unanimously.
Williams has said since January that he does not want to mesh sanctuary cities with his homeland security priorities and reiterated his commitment today.
“It’s not a trick play. I wanted to keep these issues completely separate,” Williams said. “I think it’s very important, and unfortunately [SB 9] hasn’t received any serious consideration on the House side.”
Asked if there was a chance that some form of a sanctuary cities bill would pass, Williams shrugged and said, “It’s getting late.”