Bill Would Prevent Immigration Inquiry by Officer

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, on June 26, 2010, at the Texas Democratic Convention in Corpus Christi.
State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, on June 26, 2010, at the Texas Democratic Convention in Corpus Christi.

Freshman state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, filed SB 600 on Friday, which would prevent law enforcement from asking the immigration status or nationality of a witness to or victim of a crime “except as necessary to investigate the offense.”

Rodríguez is one one of several outspoken Democrats who believe Gov. Rick Perry’s call to abolish “sanctuary city” policies in Texas would discourage potential witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.

“Cooperation by witnesses and victims with law enforcement is essential for El Paso and communities across the state to remain safe,” a Rodríguez aide said in a statement. “If they fear they may be jailed, however, witnesses and victims will be less likely to work with law enforcement.”

During a news conference in the district last month, Rodríguez said police officers would focus more on a person's immigration status than fighting crime if they were required to enforce federal immigration laws. It’s especially not needed in his district, he added, citing the border city’s recent ranking as one of the safest of its size.

In response to the senator’s claim that Perry’s request would hinder law enforcement, aides to the governor said his intent has been misunderstood. The governor opposes policies that prevent law enforcement from asking the immigration status of a person detained by an officer, aides say. But Perry would also oppose legislation that requires peace officers to do it, as the proposed legislation in Arizona, SB 1070, would do. The issue is about giving law enforcement discretion, the governor’s aides have said. Despite the governor's clarification, several Republican lawmakers have filed bills that would, in fact, require a Texas peace officer to inquire about a person's immigration status if detained. Ending "sanctuary cities" is one of Perry's emergency items.

 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.