A series of email exchanges between Republican Party boosters and the office of Gov. Rick Perry indicate some conservatives believe passing the contentious “sanctuary cities” bill may cripple efforts to recruit more Hispanics to their ranks.
The correspondence signals a potential rift between Perry, who appears intent on addressing immigration issues during the current special session, and some of the party’s backers as rumors surrounding a possible Perry presidential run continue to swirl.
“At the end of the day you should understand that Hispanic voters will not support a party that wants to deport their mother and father,” Norman Adams, the co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy and a member of Texas GOP Vote, a conservative website, wrote to Ray Sullivan, Perry’s chief of staff. The messages are part of an email exchange that began June 2 and were obtained by the Tribune.
Dr. Steve Hotze, the chairman of Conservative Republicans of Texas, is included in the exchanges and urges Perry and Sullivan to reconsider. Hotze contributed at least $60,000 personally and at least $640,000 via his PAC to GOP House and Senate candidates in the last election cycle
“It seems that we should focus on recruiting Hispanics to the Republican ranks," he wrote. "It appears this bill might accomplish just the opposite.”
Perry added legislation to the special session call to ban sanctuary cities, the common term for entities that, through adopted policy, prevent local law enforcement from inquiring into the immigration status of persons legally detained or arrested.
The email exchanges, which continued through Wednesday, applaud Perry for a successful regular session, in which he stood by his conservative principles and passed a “loser pays” bill, sonogram legislation and voter ID. It warns, however, that Perry should see the death of HB 12, the sanctuary cities bill in the regular session, as an “unanswered prayer.”
“When it comes to the Sanctuary City bill, we believe you should thank God for the opposition from our police chiefs and sheriffs across the state. Its failure to pass was a blessing for you and for Texas Republicans,” Adams wrote Perry on June 2, before the governor added the legislation to the call. Speculation that Perry would add the item had already gained momentum by then, however, and it is also the day state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, filed SB9, which includes the legislation.
“The irony of this whole thing is that the governor had a winning ticket if he wants to run for president" with the success of the regular session, Adams said today in an interview. “He avoided Arizona-style legislation, which has caused nothing but an economic disaster [there], in his own state.”
Sullivan said today that Perry will not get distracted from what he views as political theater.
“What Dr. Hotze and Mr. Adams talk about is politics. We are talking about public safety and policy,” he said. “We are not looking at this through a political lens. This is ‘How do we make Texas streets and neighborhoods and individuals safer?’”
He also said the issue would not damage the party’s efforts to recruit Hispanics.
“There is a broad agreement throughout the state, regardless of geography and political persuasion, that law enforcement should be encouraged to do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” he said. He added that a lot of the criminal activity the bill seeks to address occurs in “urban centers and minority communities,” and pointed out that every Hispanic Republican in the Texas House supports the sanctuary cities legislation.
Sullivan also dismissed Adams’ emails that insist a majority of law enforcement officers are opposed to the bill.
“We have been hearing for well over a year from police officers and police associations who have seen their colleagues killed by individuals in the country illegally,” he said.
Adams reiterated today the concerns he and Hotze raised to Perry and Sullivan about the economic repercussions of immigration legislation in Texas, and alluded to what is happening in Arizona as an example.
“If you want to find out if we can actually survive deporting these people, go look at what has happened in Arizona. They are in the biggest economic collapse of history,” he said. “Apartments are empty, houses are being repossessed and strip centers are half empty. It’s terrible.”
Adams also breaks ranks with fellow conservatives who allege that illegal immigrants in the agriculture, construction and service industries are taking jobs from American citizens.
“They absolutely have jobs that Americans don’t want. I don’t care what the radio talk show hosts want to say in response to that,” he said.
Sullivan also rejected that notion.
“We believe that having safer communities is better for our economy. Regardless of whether workers are here illegally or legally, we cannot tolerate and cannot look the other way [from] criminal activity,” he said.
Williams’ bill was read and referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security today. It is scheduled for a committee hearing Monday.