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The Brief: Aug. 19, 2010

Immigration talk turned away from babies — both the terrorist and anchor variety — and back to figures and data on Wednesday.

Demonstrators march through the streets of downtown Dallas in 2010 to protest the passage of Arizona's controversial new imm…

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Immigration talk turned away from babies — both the terrorist and anchor variety — and back to figures and data on Wednesday.

At a hearing of the House Committee on State Affairs, officials brushed up on their immigration data and statistics, hearing testimony from state officials in preparation for a 2011 legislative session that many expect to see partly dominated by a Republican push for Arizona-like immigration policy. 

Testimony largely centered on the financial costs of illegal immigration, a theme likely to resonate next year as the Legislature grapples with an $18 billion budget shortfall, the El Paso Times reports.  "We want to focus on what the real costs are for state services," said committee Chairman Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton . "There's really not a lot of wholly accurate data."

Officials said the state paid at least $250 million for health care and prison costs for illegal immigrants in 2009 but added that calculating exact numbers presents challenges, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Some, though, including state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Browsville, said that while they were pleased to see the spotlight back on substance in the debate, the hearing offered no information on illegal immigrants' contributions to the state's economy. (The state comptroller reported in 2006 that undocumented immigrants injected almost $18 billion into the state economy the year before, the Times notes.)

And as the Tribune's Julian Aguilar reports today, talk also turned to E-Verify — the system that allows employers to confirm work status — and other difficulties immigrants face, like the winding pathway to earning legal residency, which surprised some lawmakers.

Look for legislative attention today to turn to education as leaders from Texas universities descend on the Capitol to jockey for tier-one status. The Trib's Reeve Hamilton has a preview.

CULLED:

  • The Houston Chronicle reports today that Texas City residents didn't know until weeks later that the BP refinery explosion earlier this year had released thousands of pounds of a cancer-causing compound into the air.
  • U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, is hitting Republican opponent Bill Flores for his support of a plan that would allow veterans to use their health benefits in the private sector. The "dangerous" proposal, Edwards says, would "destroy the VA health care system as we know it."
  • State Rep. Joe Driver, who admitted this week to taking reimbursements for travel expenses from both his campaign and the state, says he invites the Travis County district attorney's review of his expenses. "That's exactly what they're supposed to do," Driver spokesman Craig Murphy tells The Associated Press.
  • The San Antonio City Council will vote today to on a citywide smoking ban, joining a number of cities — including Dallas, El Paso and Houston — that have already passed such ordinances. The San Antonio effort, a bit of a political saga in itself, has roused fiery debate and provoked last-minute deal-making, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

“So, if you … want to work in the construction business and you want to apply to be a citizen, there is really no way to do that?" — A surprised state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, upon learning of one of the difficulties immigrants face in attaining permanent residency status

MUST-READ:

Houston City Council strikes down plan to change term limits, Houston Chronicle

Brownsville ban may not be in the bag, San Antonio Express-News

State budget could be 'ugly' if Medicare funding goes down, The Dallas Morning News

Teen who collapsed at residential treatment facility dies, Houston Chronicle

West Texas redistricting wish list may be tough to deliver, legislators say, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Seton says it can't operate clinic for high-risk pregnant women at hospital because of Catholic teachings, Austin American-Statesman

Candidates, PACs Hold $167 Million at Mid-Year, The Texas Tribune

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