Monday, November 15, 2010


Texas Lawmakers File Immigration Enforcement Bills

Last week, Texas lawmakers filed immigration enforcement bills in both the state House and Senate.

In the state House, Representative Debbie Riddle introduced H.B. 17, which creates a new misdemeanor offense: criminal trespass by an illegal alien. (TX H.B. 17 § 1) A person commits this offense if he or she is a non-U.S. citizen and “enters or remains on or in any public or private property” in Texas in violation of federal immigration law prohibiting entry or re-entry into the U.S. by an illegal alien. (Id.; INA §§ 275-276) The bill also authorizes police to make a warrantless arrest of an individual if: 1) the arresting officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed criminal trespass as defined above; 2) the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is committing or has committed a separate offense under which the officer may arrest the person without a warrant; and 3) U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirm that the person is in the country illegally. (TX H.B. 17 § 2)

Rep. Riddle, whose bill is only one of about 15 immigration-related bills already filed in Texas for the upcoming legislative session, camped out at the state Capitol for 36 hours straight to ensure that her bill was one of the first in line. (, Nov. 8, 2010; The Texas Tribune, Nov. 9, 2010) “I would have waited a month if I had to do so,” said Riddle. (The Texas Tribune, Nov. 9, 2010)

In the state Senate, Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), filed an Arizona-style companion bill to Rep. Riddle’s legislation. Sen. Patrick’s bill, S.B. 126, mandates that police “inquire into the lawful presence of any person who is lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested on other grounds if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the person has violated a criminal provision of the federal immigration laws.” (TX S.B. 126 § 1(a); INA §§ 275-276) If the officer has probable cause to believe that the person violated federal immigration law by entering or re-entering the country illegally, the officer may elect to arrest the person. (TX S.B. 126 § 1(b)(1); INA §§ 275-276) The officer must also identify and report the person to ICE following the arrest. (TX S.B. 126 § 1(b)(2))

If the immigration enforcement measures are passed, they will go to recently re-elected Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for him to either sign or veto. Although Gov. Perry opposed the Department of Justice lawsuit against Arizona, he has also said that the Arizona law "would not be the right direction for Texas." (See FAIR’s 2010 Election Report at pp. 158; The Hill, Apr. 30, 2010) Last week, Perry said that his view on SB 1070 has not changed in light of the bills filed by the Texas lawmakers, but declined to "take the bait" and declare that he would veto specific legislation. (The Associated Press, Nov. 9, 2010) Instead, Perry said, "[W]e'll go through the process" when the Legislature convenes in January. (Id.)