The swirling force of Texas politics

Texas Lawmaker Files Bill Targeting Illegal Immigrants

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    flickr/Silly Jilly

    A state representative from Houston has filed three pieces of legislation that would criminalize illegal immigrants and those who employ them, but the legislation won't get a hearing unless Gov. Rick Perry adds the topic to his agenda for the current special legislative session.

    Perry recalled the Legislature to work on unresolved issues relating to school finance, congressional redistricting and the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, has called on Perry to allow lawmakers to take up illegal immigration issues and said the governor was considering it.

    "We'll see what he does on Monday," Dewhurst said.

    Rep. Debbie Riddle's first bill, filed late Friday, would make being in the United States illegally an offense under the state criminal trespass statute. A police officer would be allowed to arrest a suspect for being in the country illegally if the person also was suspected of committing another crime that merited arrest.

    Riddle's second measure would make it a felony to intentionally or knowingly hire a worker who does not have permission to work in the United States. But it allows employers to escape charges if they verify a worker's citizenship status, but the check turns out to be wrong.

    The last measure would require state agencies to report to the Legislature how much state money is spent on illegal immigrants, including money spent by local governments

    Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has already introduced so-called sanctuary cities legislation that would require local law enforcement agencies to give immigration offenses the same priority as violent crime. Perry had named the bill emergency legislation during the regular session, but it died without a final vote.

    Hispanic groups opposed the bill, which they said would lead to racial profiling. Most police chiefs opposed it because it would not allow them to set their own law enforcement priorities and would make it harder for police to work in minority communities.

    Rightwing activists have made the immigration enforcement bill a litmus test for conservative lawmakers. All 19 Republican senators have signed on as co-authors to the measure, which would also require the state to check an applicant's immigration status before issuing a driver's license.