It was a tense gathering in the State House Friday as lawmakers are trying to figure out how to handle immigration policies within cities.
Governor Greg Abbott has dubbed lawmakers with the task of studying sanctuary city policies statewide.
“This is a very serious subject, as we go through it, we need to remember the humanitarian aspects of all of it,” said Senator Robert Hall.
The issue is so complex; legislators broke it up into four study sessions. Sanctuary Cities are communities that provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrants, where police do not enforce federal immigration laws. Lawmakers are weighing whether Texas cities should be more stringent when it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants.
This is the second session on the topic, but the first time they took public comment. ”I gave you a copy of HPD’s sanctuary policy. They say that Houston is not a sanctuary city, but it most definitely is,” said one woman who drove from Houston to testify, “If they want to stop me and ask me if I am legal....fine,” she said.
Just one public testimony led to more than 2 hours of lawmakers going back and forth. “The person that would appear here to be illegally from, and granted I say appears to be here illegally, is turned loose by the police very quickly and the answer given is we can't do anything about it anyway. But for the same law being broken by someone who can be identified as a citizen, they are taken to jail, and booked, or their car is towed. It happens time and time again,” said Senator Hall. Senator Eddie Lucio chimed in and said “Try to understand that there are people out there who are being murdered and killed, and they are in the line of fire of a drug cartel or organized crime and that have no choice but to head north.” Senator Charles Perry responded back “We're not talking about those that are coming here for help or opportunity. We are talking about the opportunity for a bad guy to be unidentified,” he said.
There is not currently a bill for sanctuary cities; they are hoping to have something for the upcoming session.
There will be two more hearings on the topic, one in March, and another in April.