In a process that began yesterday as the House State Affairs Committee held hearings, a number of immigration related bills are making their way through the Texas House of Representatives, many of which will increase the involvement of local law enforcement in civil immigration law.
Among the downsides of such laws are:
· That it can work against public safety in communities by creating mistrust between mistrust local police and neighborhoods.
· That it diverts police away from enforcing public safety in encouraging unneeded policies.
· That it lead to overcrowding crisis in Texas jails.
· That it Takes local control away from trusted law enforcement leaders who know their communities needs best and would rather concentrate on public safety.
These bills (HB 12, HB 18, HB 183, HB 623 and HB 875) are currently in various states of discussion in the Texas House of Representatives. HB 12, after discussion yesterday, has been neutered from its original position, but still encourages police offers to inquire about the immigration status of anyone who it is believed could conceivably be in the country illegally, a drain on local police officers’ time and resources.
Other bills would revoke the Texas law that allows foreign-born high school students who are long time residents of Texas to attend public colleges and institutions with in-state tuition (keeping many students out of college and contributing to a cycle of poverty) and would require untrained sheriff deputies to attempt to determine the immigration status of detainees (possibly leading to the unjust detainment of U.S. citizens in the event of a mistake and the draining of time and resources).
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. One bill in the House (HB 603 filed by Representative Jessica Farrar) would ensure that the authorities would never ask the immigration status of someone who has been the victim of or the witness to a violent crime unless it is absolutely necessary to the matter at hand. This is essential in helping stop cycles of violence and removing violent, dangerous criminals from communities where they do harm. Until victims are unafraid to speak out, violence will continue to be pervasive in communities where the authorities are feared rather than seen as protectors.
We will continue to keep an eye on these bills as they work their way through the Texas legislative branch, and we hope you will do the same.