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Watch for Stowaways

The sanctuary cities bill filed by Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, was a victory for conservative lawmakers who called for state enforcement of immigration laws. But the bill, which 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, could be the only victory in that category as time winds down in the current session.

The sanctuary cities bill filed by Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, was a victory for conservative lawmakers who called for state enforcement of immigration laws. But the bill, which 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, could be the only victory in that category as time winds down in the current session.

Those include creating a trespassing crime for those in the state illegally, prohibiting undocumented immigrants from filing claims in court, and making a felony of hiring an unauthorized worker (with the exception of domestic help). Most of them never had a hearing, and those that did were left pending.

They're not without hope, however. State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, got SB 9 voted out of the upper chamber and it might be vulnerable to amendment. The bill mandates that cities employ the so-called Secure Communities program, institute stronger penalties for a laundry list of felonies, and codify proof-of-citizenship requirements for driver's licenses and state-issued IDs. It would establish a pilot program for an automatic license-plate reader used by DPS officers, and would allow DPS to commission a special unit of Texas Rangers to conduct background checks, monitor sex offenders and assist during disasters. The broad caption on it — relating to homeland security — could make it a vehicle for stalled immigration-related legislation.

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