History of LWV-TX Action on Immigration

1997 Because immigration is largely regulated by federal law, few bills relating to immigration were introduced during the 75th Legislature and no League action was taken. However, one of the League's legislative priorities in 1997, fair and adequate funding and delivery of vital state services in the era of block grants, encompassed needs of all low income persons, immigrants as well as non immigrants.

2001 The League supported legislation to require the Texas Department of Human Services to develop and implement a food assistance program.

2007 The immigration issue generated much sound and fury during the 80th Legislative session, but none of three bills supported by LWV-TX passed. HB 28 (Berman) would have excluded state services to children born in this state to parents who are not citizens or nationals of the U.S., and who have entered the U.S. without inspection and authorization of an immigration officer. The bill died in committee. HRC 11 (Solomon) would have directed the office of the attorney General of Texas to pursue all available remedies to demand the enforcement of all existing federal immigration laws an to recover any money owed Texas by the federal government for costs incurred by the state in dealing with illegal immigration. SB 151 (Shapleigh) would have prohibited discrimination relating to immigration status or nationality of a person needing or receiving emergency medical care.

2011 The 82nd session saw several proposed bills regarding immigration. The main thrust behind each was to implement the governor's objective to enable all law enforcement agencies across the state to verify the legal status of anyone legally detained. This included increased use of the federal electronic verification system. LWV-TX opposed all of the proposed immigration bills, basically because immigration is a federal issue. The LWV supports federal law providing an efficient, expeditious system for legal entry into the U.S. None of the proposed bills were successful in the regular session.

2009 The 81st Texas Legislature did provide a few minor affirmative measures like allowing children to be absent from school if they are involved in an immigration court hearing, and providing services and protection to victims of human trafficking. However, of the more than 100 immigration bills filed, more than 60 were anti-immigrant. One questionable bill that did pass was a measure which would provide deportation for those convicted of a misdemeanor involving family violence. According to the Progressive States Network the anti-immigration movement failed in most states, and Texas was rated as a somewhat integrated state.

2017 The 85th Legislative Session has be the most divisive session in recent history for the immigration, with passage of SB 4 overshadowing the issue. As described by the National Immigration Forum:

The law requires all Texas law enforcement agencies to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers and punishes local government entities for not enforcing federal immigration laws. SB 4 requires local law enforcement to direct resources such as jail space, officers’ on-duty time and local tax dollars to work that traditionally have been the responsibility of the federal government. SB 4 bars any local policy that would prohibit police officers from questioning a person’s immigration status, even during routine detainments such as traffic stops. ("Five Things to Know About Texas' SB 4," by National Immigration Forum, May 5, 2017; retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ybvtxk6m)

Law enforcement from across the state provided testimony arguing that the law would make our sate unsafe and that cities and counties were unable to bear the additional cost of enforcing the law. Witnesses testified that the law would bring fear into our communities, making people fearful of contacting police, the fear of police profiling in a state that has a large Hispanic community, and the fear of families would be torn apart. The Senate and the House both passed this bill, which the governor had placed on his emergency bill list.

The passage of this bill has spurred numerous lawsuits from municipalities across the state from El Cenito, a small border town, to San Antonio, a large metropolitan area, as well as civil rights organizations. The legislation has spurred many protests in the state and at the Capitol. It has created an environment of fear and contempt that culminated in a near fight in the House of Representatives between two representatives.

The only real immigration bright spot this session was that the House let SB 1018, the "baby" bill die. This bill would have given Family and Child Protective Services the ability to license detention centers as day care centers. The bill died in committee.