No Sanctuary

Sanctuary city bill set to pass House today

Leo Berman
Leo Berman

Forget worrying about how to pay for immigration-enforcement training for police officers, or about those pesky racial- profiling lawsuits that are bound to follow, Texas House Republican lawmakers are bound and determined to pass the so-called "sanctuary city" bill.

House Bill 12 (by Reps. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, and Patricia Harless, R-Spring) would forbid cities and schools from adopting any rule, ordinance, or policy to prohibit police from enforcing federal immigration law. This bill is an exquisite example of pandering – including by our favorite Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler. Indeed, in an exchange with Austin Dem Rep. Eddie Rodriguez this morning, during which Rodriguez pointed out several of the negative impacts the bill would have – as told to him by Austin Police Dept. Chief Art Acevedo, who has testified against the bill – Berman took to the back mic to say that this bill was absolutely necessary because police in Tyler are overwhelmed by "drive-by shootings" and "drug deals" perpetrated by "illegal aliens."

Aside from being blatantly bigoted, Berman's remarks also appear not to be grounded in reality. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, the Tyler M.S.A. has a pretty low incidence of violent crime – there were just 3 murders in Tyler (proper) in 2009 and under 400 aggravated assaults. So, where all these shoot-'em-ups are happening isn't entirely clear.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Texas law enforcement big-wigs have consistently spoken out against this kind of legislation, including Acevedo and El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles, who both said during a press conference earlier this year that passing this kind of law has serious negative consequences. First of all, it undermines trust in police, which means immigrant families are less likely to report crimes and are often more vulnerable to become victims of crime. Second, the bill represents a fiscal burden for local governments who will have to train police to become immigration enforcement officers.

And, ultimately, said Rodriguez, this law simply isn't necessary: Immigration officers are housed at the county jail and will undertake deportation proceedings for any illegal immigrant who is picked up for violating the law – in other words, the system already targets those who are here and are not playing well with others, but does not randomly inspect folks for proof of citizenship.

The debate continues now (with nice commentary on grandstanding by Dallas Dem Rep. Rafael Anchia – as in, grandstanding is Gov. Rick Perry giving the sanctuary city bill emergency status in the face of a $27 billion budget deficit). Watch here.

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