AUSTIN – Today, state Sen. José Rodríguez, Chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus (SHC), and state Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia, Vice Chair of the SHC, used a Senate rule to postpone the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security hearing on SB 185,the “sanctuary cities” bill, which was scheduled for 8 a.m. The notice for the hearing was published mid-day Friday, which gave potential witnesses insufficient time to make arrangements to testify at the hearing.
“This bill will have a tremendous impact on families, law enforcement and local government. I heard from a number of elected officials and stakeholders that the timing of the hearing notice did not allow for the type of transparent, open debate necessary for such a wide-ranging measure,” Sen. Rodríguez said.
“Senate Bill 185 has major ramifications to our state – to our public safety, to our economy, to the education of our children, and it takes away local decision-making based on the needs of individual communities. It should be carefully considered. In the past, hundreds of individuals have testified against similar legislation. Yet, a hearing for SB 185 was set with less than 72 hours of notice and over a weekend. It has been extremely difficult to get in touch with my local city, county and school officials over the weekend and to inform constituents who want to share their voice. I am extremely disappointed that my colleagues would try to limit public participation in the legislative process with a maneuver like this,” stated Sen. Garcia.
In 2011, a similar bill to this session’s SB 185, which essentially mandates that local law enforcement take on the role of immigration agents, was heard in Senate Transportation and Homeland Security. Concerned Texans from across the state, including religious leaders, city and law enforcement officials, and community members, came to testify in opposition, but they were told they could not because the bill (then HB 12) no longer contained the sanctuary cities language. The language was added back and the measure passed out of committee, with no opportunity for meaningful public comment.
“Despite these tactics, we were able to stop the bill from becoming law by using the two-thirds rule. Now the concept, which would build walls between law enforcement and Latino communities, is back under consideration in the Texas Legislature,” Sen. Rodríguez said. “Law enforcement officials already have testified that it will hurt their efforts to keep communities safe. City and county officials have made clear it will add costs for training, as well as putting them in the precarious legal position of either potentially violating federal law or violating the state law. Faith leaders, business leaders, community leaders -- all have testified to the negative impacts of this legislation.
“The business of the state – budget and taxes, public education, infrastructure, and other key governance issues – requires every bit of attention and energy we have. This kind of proposal, which is unnecessarily divisive and not good public policy, has no place in the Texas Legislature.”