A Senate subcommittee on border security heard testimony Monday about a bill that puts sanctuary cities back in the spotlight. State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) laid out Senate Bill 185 before committee members.
"It's not an anti-immigration bill, it's a rule of law bill," said the west Texas lawmaker.
Perry maintains his bill is not an Arizona style bill. He says cities adopt policies referred to as "sanctuary city" policies that keep law enforcement from asking about a person's immigration status. The proposal was the center of heated debates in 2011. This session Perry is sponsoring a bill that would allow law enforcement officers to question people who they arrest about their immigration status. It would also cut off state dollars to cities that adopt policies prohibiting officers from enforcing federal immigration laws.
"We are willing to spend $800 million on border security yet we are going to allow cities internal to our borders to solicit those funds that have a policy at the city level that undermines the ability to ensure border security. You can see the catch 22. It doesn't make sense to me," said Perry.
Dozens of people packed into the hearing room and even filled up an over-flow room. Among the supporters are Dan Golvach and Laura Wilkerson. Both of their sons were killed by suspects who were living in Texas illegally.
Wilkerson maintains that her son would be alive if SB-185 were on the books.
"We're not against helping human beings but you have to know the criminal element is out there. SB 185 will show we're not stopping officers from doing their job," said Wilkerson.
"It means my son's death isn't completely in vain. I'm trying to make something out of it," said Dan Golvach on making the trip to the capitol.
Some law enforcement agencies support the idea but San Antonio Police Chief Anthony Trevino doesn't like it. "It sends a chilling effect to the community because we make such a concerted effort to reach out and legislation like this would hamper that," said Chief Trevino. He fears it would impact community policing and keep people from feeling like it was safe to report a crime or submit tips.
"The bill is not necessary," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinajosa. He says it raises concerns about racial profiling. As the bill is written it prohibits the practice according to Perry.
"There is racial profiling. I don't care what anyone says. It's not something most law enforcement officers engage in but this would give them a license to do that," said Hinajosa.
"I've got to respect those positions. They are real. We live in a society where not everyone does the right thing," said Perry.
The debate over border security and the bills lawmakers have filed is far from over. Senator Eddie Lucio says he plans to file several amendments. The bill will likely be left pending in the subcommittee with a vote scheduled for a later date.