Hundreds of Texans descended on the state Capitol on Tuesday to draw attention to what they say are dozens of bills that, if passed, would hinder economic development, stymie education and — above all — encourage racial profiling in the Lone Star State.
Some marched and waved signs supporting the United Farm Workers. Others, cloaked in Texas and U.S. flags, proclaimed that “Texas Can Do Better Than Arizona.” The immigrants’ rights advocates, former military personnel, lawmakers and students — from seemingly every rural and urban sector of the state — rallied and proclaimed that bills like HB 17 and HB 22 would serve only to increase insecurity and distrust within immigrant communities, hinder Texas’ future workforce from being competitive and lead to an increase in crime. The bills, by state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would make it a Class B misdemeanor to be in the country without proper documentation and mandate that school districts report the immigration status of their students. Riddle has also filed HB 1202, which would make it a state jail felony to knowingly and “recklessly” hire an unauthorized worker.
Immigration-related legislation faces its best chance of passing in decades after a Nov. 2 election that tilted the balance of power to the Republican Party in Texas. Republicans now control the Texas House, 101 to 49. Despite the shift, however, Democratic lawmakers are pushing their own legislation. State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, touted his SB 600, which would prevent law enforcement from asking the immigration status of victims of or witnesses to crimes. Rodríguez said the cooperation of the immigrant community has made El Paso one of the safest cities of its size.
State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, told protesters on Tuesday that he was once asked by a reporter why the immigration rallies didn’t draw crowds the sizes of other movements. “It’s because they are all out there working,” he told the crowd, which took up its “Sí Se Puede” chant in response to the lawmaker's comments. “They are out in the fields, in the restaurants.”
Added state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth: “You are here to say ‘no' to the most racist session of the Texas Legislature in a quarter of a century."