by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org
To anyone standing on the sidelines of the Texas legislature’s current special session, one thing has become abundantly clear: bill proposals such as the contentious “sanctuary cities” bill will cripple Latino support for the Republican party and limit Perry’s political ambitions.
Perry announced earlier this week that he was expanding the call for a special session to include the abolishment of sanctuary cities–that is, a jurisdiction where law enforcement officials do not apprehend individuals and check their immigration status to determine whether they are in the country illegally– and a requirement that people applying for driver’s licenses verify their immigration status. Fortunately, the bill died in the Texas Senate’s Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
Perry’s adamance on addressing immigration issues during the session is rumored to be a strategic move towards a presidential run, but his designation of two sideshow issues as “emergency” legislation, when lawmakers should be spending every possible moment on the state’s budget crisis, is a continuation of his campaign tactics, which were to do everything possible to deflect voters’ attention from his mediocre record in Texas.
“Abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas, using the federal Secure Communities program and ensuring that only individuals who are here legally can obtain a valid Texas driver’s license sends a clear message that Texas will not turn a blind eye to those breaking our laws.” The so-called sanctuary cities bill prohibits cities, counties and school districts from stopping their law enforcement officers from enforcing federal immigration laws.
“There is a broad agreement throughout the state, regardless of geography and political persuasion, that law enforcement should be encouraged to do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” he said. He added that a lot of the criminal activity the bill seeks to address occurs in “urban centers and minority communities,” and pointed out that every Hispanic Republican in the Texas House supports the sanctuary cities legislation. Apparently, he now believes that taking law enforcement officers away from their existing duties does not pose a danger to citizens.
On a brighter note, at least he’s avoided Arizona-style legislation in Texas, which has caused nothing but an economic disaster in Arizona. “If you want to find out if we can actually survive deporting these people, go look at what has happened in Arizona. They are in the biggest economic collapse of history,” Perry said. “Apartments are empty, houses are being repossessed and strip centers are half empty. It’s terrible.”
There are 9 million Hispanics in Texas, many of whom voted for Perry in the last election. Of these 9 million Hispanics, 500,000 are military veterans and former law enforcement officers.
If he continues with such ill-adivised tactics, Perry’s approach will incur the wrath of the large proportion of Hispanic voters who view such legislation as discriminatory — and provide Democrats with an issue around which they could possibly mobilize (i.e. increase) Hispanic voter participation in 2012 (both at the state level in Texas’ county, state legislative and congressional elections and nationally in the event of a Perry presidential candidacy).
“At the end of the day you should understand that Hispanic voters will not support a party that wants to deport their mother and father,” Norman Adams, the co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy and a member of Texas GOP Vote, a conservative website, stated in an e-mail exchange with Ray Sullivan, Perry’s chief of staff.
“It seems that we should focus on recruiting Hispanics to the Republican ranks,” he wrote. “It appears this bill might accomplish just the opposite, writes Dr. Steve Hotze, chairman of Conservative Republicans of Texas.
I applaud Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, who said that above all, lawmakers should concentrate their discussions on budgetary allocations for education and healthcare instead of diverting into the hot-button immigration issues. Lucio said the anti-immigration legislation “turns human beings into crime scenes” while ignoring the potential impacts on border families.
“Our immigration system is broken,” Lucio said. “However, reform needs to be driven from the federal level and must put families first.”