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“Sanctuary cities” bill gutted in committee

Didn’t see this coming.

In a surprise move that could effectively kill HB 12, the sanctuary cities bill that Gov. Rick Perry declared an emergency item, a Senate committee today replaced the immigration language with a homeland security bill by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

The move could be deadly for the sanctuary cities legislation because the Williams bill, which was offered as a substitute to HB 12 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, does not contain any language about local law enforcement checking immigration status.

The homeland security bill, SB 9, which is also a controversial measure, was passed out of the Senate last month. It doesn’t have a House sponsor, though, and the House committee didn’t vote on it Tuesday. The bill would require all law enforcement agencies to adopt the federal Secure Communities program. It also would institute stronger penalties for a laundry list of felonies and codify proof-of-citizenship requirements for driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs. It would establish an automatic license-plate reader pilot program for vehicles used by Department of Public Safety officers. It does not, however, prohibit local governments from preventing police from asking people about their citizenship. That means it wouldn’t put an end to sanctuary cities. The committee approved the new bill unanimously.

Williams has said since January that he does not want to mesh sanctuary cities with his homeland security priorities and reiterated his commitment today.

“It’s not a trick play. I wanted to keep these issues completely separate,” Williams said. “I think it’s very important, and unfortunately [SB 9] hasn’t received any serious consideration on the House side.”

Asked if there was a chance that some form of a sanctuary cities bill would pass, Williams shrugged and said, “It’s getting late.”

It must be noted that SB9 is not a good bill, either, so while it’s great to see HB12 get what it deserved, this is not a clean win. It’s also the case that HB12 could get attached as an amendment to something. Still, it’s at least a small win, and who knows, maybe both HB12 and SB9 will die as a result. Melissa del Bosque has more.

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