The controversial “sanctuary cities” bill hit a roadblock in the Texas house late Friday when a point of order derailed the legislation and knocked it off the calendar.
The bill, HB 12, by state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, would prohibit cities, counties and other governmental entities or special districts from adopting a policy that prevents law enforcement from asking persons lawfully detained or arrested if they are in the country legally. Minority groups and immigrants’ rights groups oppose the bill, alleging that it will promote racial profiling and open up legal residents and citizens to harassment by police officers.
The roadblock, which materialized five hours after lawmakers began debating the bill, is the result of an error on a witness affirmation form. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, called the point of order because, he said, a member of the State Affairs Committee, where the bill was heard, filled in a section of the form for a person scheduled to testify. Witnesses are asked to indicate whether they are for a bill, against it or neutral. In this case the witness left the section blank, and the lawmaker filled it in. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, a member of the committee, said there was no way to determine that the position indicated was truly what the witness meant to convey.
Martinez Fischer and Geren declined to name the lawmaker, but both said it was “absolutely” a mistake.
Friday’s events, though a victory for Democrats and other opponents of the bill, will likely only garner a temporary celebration. The bill will likely be resurrected, as the House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet again late Friday to vote the bill out — a requirement to place the bill back on the calendar.
“This bill will be on the floor Monday, and it will be on the fast track,” Geren said.
Martinez Fischer acknowledged the bill would be back and that the battle would begin again on Monday. But he said House Democrats, who are outnumbered by House Republicans 101 to 49, would continue to fight because the bill was likely the “single largest assault” on the Latino community in the state.
“I will use every device necessary to account for the two-to-one disadvantage [in the House],” he said.
The State Affairs Committee voted the bill out at 9:20 p.m. Solomons said it will be on the calendar Monday.