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Sanctuary Cities Bill Passes First Hurdle

Legislation banning “sanctuary city” policies in Texas was voted out of the House State Affairs Committee today, sending the controversial bill to the full House for consideration.

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Legislation banning “sanctuary city” policies in Texas was voted out of the House State Affairs Committee today, sending the bill to the full House for consideration.

HB 12 by Rep. Burt Solomons would prevent cities, counties and other governmental entities from adopting policies that prohibit law enforcement from asking a person legally detained or arrested their immigration status. The legislation was labeled an emergency item by Gov. Rick Perry in January. Under the bill, entities refusing to comply risk losing state funds.

Solomons presented the committee, with its nine Republicans and four Democrats, a substitute bill he said would address concerns raised about how the original bill would affect school districts. State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, originally objected to their inclusion, alleging that allowing school district employees to inquire about a student's status would violate federal law. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1982’s Plyler V. Doe ruled that a school district could not deny funding to a school that educated undocumented immigrants. Oliveira said denying education to any student also contradicts the Texas Constitution. Solomons removed school district employees in his substitute, but the bill would still apply to campus police officers. Oliveira tried but failed to amend the bill to remove school districts altogether.

“We are continuing to put school districts between a rock and a hard place,” Oliveira said. “Your sanction punishes the entire school district.”

Oliveira’s amendment was voted down along party lines, 9 to 3. (Democrat Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was not present for that vote.)

Oliveira also tried to tack on an amendment that would allow certain government entities to “temporarily suspend” the policy for economic or personnel reasons, or because of a lack of jail space. That amendment also failed. The final bill was also voted out along party lines, 9 to 4. According to the bill’s fiscal note, the measure would not have any impact on the state budget.

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