Texas Legislative Watch: Pre-Filed Immigration Bills (Part I)

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While the most important issue facing the 82nd Texas Legislature is the budget, which is projected to have a shortfall of about $25 billion, but the one issue that may create the largest debate is immigration. During the campaign immigration was an issue that many Republican candidates campaigned on in Texas, and a new wave of conservative Republican legislators will be bringing those campaign issues to the Capitol. Many veteran Republican lawmakers in the Texas Legislature will also have the opportunity to address pieces of legislation that Democrats were able to block during the 81st Texas Legislature.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 7% of the country believe that immigration or illegal aliens is the “most important problem facing the country,” although 11% self-identified Republicans felt that it was the most important problem. The economy and unemployment were the top two most important problems facing the country among those surveyed, and that represented 58% of the responses. However, in Texas voters seem more focused on the border than their paychecks. According to a Texas Tribune poll, the economy was named by only 14% of those surveyed as the most important problem facing Texas. Among those surveyed 21% said that border security was the most important issue, and 19% said that immigration was the most important issue.

To date there has been 487 pieces of legislation pre-filed in the Texas Legislature, and over twenty different bills and resolutions have been pre-filed that are either directly or indirectly associated with immigration policy. Due to the number of pieces of legislation I will be looking at them in two parts, one part a look at the legislation pre-filed in the Texas House of Representatives and another part a look at the legislation pre-filed in the Texas Senate. I will also be looking at the pieces of legislation based on different categories, and high lightening bills within those different categories.

More Below the Fold…Arizona Laws



The first category is the “Arizona Laws,” which refers to the draconian anti-immigrant law in Arizona which was passed earlier this year. SB1070 may be the most familiar nomenclature for a piece of legislation ever, and in Texas we now have HB17. Pre-filed by Representative Debbie Riddle (R-150), who literally camp out at the State Capitol to pre-file the legislation, the bill criminalizes undocumented immigrations and directs law enforcement to “arrest, without a warrant, a person who the officer has probable cause to believe” is an “illegal alien.” This by the way, is the same Debbie Riddle who referred to the children of undocumented immigrants as “little terrorists” and to liberals as “godless.”

Another piece of legislation filed by Riddle, HB22, would require Texas public schools to compile information on students including “citizenship or immigration status,” and provide data to the state on the number of students who are “citizens,” “immigrants” or “enrolled in bilingual education.” Representative Burt Solomons (R-65) filed HB183, which would direct law enforcement in Texas to verify the “immigration status” on anyone arrested. Representative Leo Berman (R-6) filed HB296, would require law enforcement to “determine the immigration status” of any person who is arrested or detained.

What is the likelihood of these Arizona Laws passing in the House? Well, much of that depends on who is Speaker, because if House Republicans elected a conservative Speaker then it is likely that these might come up for a vote, and there is little that House Democrats could do to prevent that. It also appears that the majority of Texas would support this type of legislation. According to a Texas Tribune poll, 56% of those surveyed “strongly support and 11% somewhat support adopting an “Arizona immigration law.” Also according to another Texas Tribune poll, 66% of those surveyed support law enforcement checking the immigration status of individuals.

HB 17 “Relating to the creation of the offense of criminal trespass by an illegal alien and to certain procedures for arresting illegal aliens for committing that criminal offense.”

HB 22 “Relating to information regarding the citizenship and immigration status of public school students.”

HB 183 “Relating to the duty of a law enforcement agency to verify the immigration status of an arrested person”

HB 296 “Relating to the enforcement of immigration laws, to the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of certain criminal offenses concerning illegal immigration, and to certain employment and labor practices and requirements regarding immigration and immigrants; providing civil and criminal penalties.”

There were several other piece of legislation filed that include increasing law enforcements role in immigration policy, strengthening laws against businesses hiring undocumented immigrants, preventing undocumented immigrants from accessing state provided services, and several bills relating to the E-verify system.

Law Enforcement



HB 113 “Relating to the enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration by certain governmental entities; providing a civil penalty.”

HB177 “Relating to the requirement of citizenship or lawful presence in the United States for issuance or renewal of certain occupational licenses, driver's licenses, and identification certificates.”

HB 247 “Relating to the enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration by certain governmental entities”

HB 302 “Relating to the enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration by certain governmental entities; providing a civil penalty.”

Employer Enforcement



HB 18 “Relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of laws governing immigration.”

HB 140 “Relating to requiring state contractors and grant recipients to participate in the federal electronic verification of work authorization program, or E-verify; adding a civil penalty.”

HB 178 “Relating to requiring governmental entities to participate in the federal electronic verification of work authorization program or E-verify”

HB 202 “Relating to requiring state contractors to participate in the federal electronic verification of work authorization program, or E-verify.”

State Benefits



HB 21 “Relating to reporting by state agencies on the financial effect of providing services to illegal immigrants.”

HB 29 “Relating to considering the assessment instrument results of certain students in evaluating school district and campus performance.”

HB 292 “Relating to birth records of children born in this state; creating an offense.”

HB 293 “Relating to the eligibility of an individual born in this state whose parents are illegal aliens to receive state benefits.”

HB 294 “Relating to prohibiting a person who is in the United States illegally from bringing a claim in a state court.”

Right Field



Among the pieces of legislation pre-filed in the Texas Legislature are a few pieces of legislations that seem to be out of “Right Field.” I realize that the phrase that is commonly used when something seems to be a little ridiculous and a little out of nowhere is “out of left field,” but considering the circumstances and the ideological undertones I think referring to these pieces as from far out in right field is justified.

Representative Berman, who just so happened to file one of the “Arizona Laws,” also pre-filed a “birther law.” HB295 would require the Texas secretary of state may to “not certify the name of a candidate for president or vice-president unless the candidate has presented the candidate's original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen.” This by the way is the same Berman who is also a “tenther” and who authored and introduced HCR50 in the 81st Legislature “affirming that the State of Texas claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.”

Since he seems to be a fan of conspiracies, I have to wonder if Berman thinks that the reason the value of the dollar has fallen has been because so many undocumented immigrants have been transferring money to other countries. Berman pre-filed HB303 which would “charge a fee on a money transmission that originates in this state and is transmitted to a destination in Mexico or in Central or South America for a personal, family, or household purpose.” So Berman wants to charge a fee on undocumented immigrants sending money back home to family south of the Rio Grande, but doesn't seem to want to charge a fee on corporations sending money south of the Rio Grande for business?

Then there is House Joint Resolution 38. Berman pre-filed this piece of legislation to propose “a constitutional amendment to establish English as the official language of Texas and require that official acts of government be performed in English.” This would deprive people of their fundamental First Amendment rights to access government and deprives government officials of their rights to free speech. Perhaps when you think the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the most important, it makes the first nine a little less relevant.

HB 295 “Relating to certification for placement on the ballot of candidates for president or vice-president of the United States.”

HB 303 “Relating to the imposition of a fee for money transmissions sent to certain destinations outside the United States.”

HJR 38 “Proposing a constitutional amendment to establish English as the official language of Texas and require that official acts of government be performed in English.”

Thursday: Texas Legislative Watch: Pre-Filed Immigration Bills (Part II)

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