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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 24, 2011

For those hoping Texas legislators get even tougher on immigration this session, the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll could give them some hope.

Immigration rally at the Texas Capitol Feb 22nd, 2011

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

For those hoping Texas legislators get even tougher on immigration this session, the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll could give them some hope.

Texans, the poll says, uniformly support stricter immigration laws, including an end to so-called birthright citizenship and punishments for businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they'd change the 14th Amendment to stop granting automatic citizenship to the U.S. born-children of illegal immigrants. The issue splits Texans along party and racial lines, with whites and Republicans in support of repeal and blacks, Hispanics and Democrats against.

Though most Texans fall on one side of the issue, the racial divide, says pollster Jim Henson, signals that immigration remains a "dangerous area … where we see the greatest difference between Hispanic and other voters."

On other issues, including those that appear in a raft of immigration-related bills the Legislature is likely to take up, Texans are similarly strict. They disapprove of so-called sanctuary cities, in which local police aren't allowed to enforce federal immigration law, by 69 percent. Gov. Rick Perry has included the issue among the "emergency" items he's called the Legislature to act on immediately.

Eighty-seven percent would require businesses to verify the immigration status of employees; 70 percent strongly favor that policy. (The Trib's Julián Aguilar today reports on one such bill, which proposes penalties of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines — and includes one interesting exception.) Seven out of 10 also support requiring police to check immigration status, though the party and racial tension flares on the issue more than that of business.

Such tension is seen, too, on the question of creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Most Texans, 54 percent, oppose the idea, but a majority of Democrats and Hispanics support it.

Check out Ross Ramsey's story for the full numbers.

CULLED:

  • An emotional and, briefly, uncharacteristically political Tom Leppert announced his resignation as mayor of Dallas in an address to the City Council on Wednesday. Before choking back tears while thanking the citizens of Dallas, Leppert, who is widely expected to soon announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, called out eight council members who defied him by raising property taxes. "That’s simply not how you grow a city," Leppert said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
  • Abortion sonogram legislation, passed last week in the state Senate, cleared a House committee Wednesday and could move to a full House vote as soon as next week. The vote Wednesday came after a day of graphic testimony that included denunciations of an exception in the bill proposed for victims of rape and incest. Lawmakers had some words, too. "That's a Holocaust times nine," said state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, of the number of abortions that have been performed in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade.
  • The Senate took aim at federal budget woes Wednesday, passing a resolution calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget. Such a move would require a constitutional convention of the states, which has never been called, but supporters hope the measure — similar versions of which the Legislature also passed in the 1970s, according to the Austin American-Statesman — will bring other states on board with the idea. "I don't think it can wait. This is a clear and present danger to our republic," said state Sen. Steve Ogden. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said he supported balancing the federal budget but that "until the Legislature effectively addresses this crisis, it’s a waste of time to pass what could well become a purely symbolic resolution."

"I'm going to take spanking for that." — State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, at a TribLive event Wednesday, on how his constituents might react if he didn't push to tap the Rainy Day Fund

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