Update (4:18 p.m.): The bill that would ban "sanctuary cities" in Texas officially passed in the House by a 94-53 vote along party lines Thursday afternoon. SB 4 will now return to the Senate where senators will either accept the Houses's passed version of the bill or call for a conference committee where members of both chambers will be tasked with agreeing on a revised version.
After an agreement is reached by both chambers on the final version of the bill, Gov. Greg Abbott, who named the bill one of his emergency priorities at the beginning of the session, will have the opportunity to sign it into law.
Update (10:34 a.m.): The Texas House of Representative gave initial approval to Senate Bill 4 at 3:10 Thursday morning along party lines. The vote came after a motion by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to suspend debate and fail all the remaining amendments, which numbered over 100. Dutton’s motion needed support from ⅔ of representatives present was approved by a 114-29 vote.
Before a vote on the bill was taken, several representatives expressed their opposition to the bill.
Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said approving the bill would add to an already heightened sense of fear among community members.
“Today, we’ve made real that fear,” Gutierrez said. “The very notion that we were going to do a softer house bill is a complete farce.”
Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie said he believes the bill would allow strained relationships between officers and the community.
“Think about the terrible position we’re putting law enforcement officers across our state in by destroying the trust that they have worked so hard to build up with the communities they’re charged with protecting,” Prairie said.
While the House tentatively approved the bill this morning, a final vote is expected at approximately 10 a.m. today when the House reconvenes.
Original post: The Texas House of Representatives passed an amendment to Senate Bill 4 by a 81-64 vote Wednesday, after more than five hours of debate and a private meeting held by House Democrats, that would revert language back to a broader version passed by the Senate.
The amendment from state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, would allow police officers to inquire about the immigration status of someone they have lawfully detained, which includes being stopped for traffic violations. SB 4, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, originally included this more stringent provision. However, when the bill reached the House State Affairs Committee, the language was revised so that one’s immigration status could be asked about only if they are arrested.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and the bill’s sponsor in the House, said he would not accept or reject amendments, but rather leave them to the will of the representatives. Geren, who voted against the amendment, said the purpose of the bill is to increase public safety.
“(The bill) is about upholding the rule of law and keeping our community safe from real criminals who are threats to other law-abiding Texans and who also happen to be in our country illegally,” Geren said during the bill’s committee hearing last month.
After Schaefer introduced his amendment, multiple representatives attempted to keep the arrest-only provision in the bill and proposed 10 amendments to his amendment.
State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, told representatives on the House floor that approving this amendment would undo the progress the committee made on the bill.
“I’m asking my fellow members to have confidence in what the committee has done and what Chairman Geren has done and vote against this amendment because it will not benefit this state,” Cook said. “You can pass (this bill) and still not do harm to a lot of really good people, so I beg you, vote against this amendment.”
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said this amendment would increase racial profiling and make it harder for undocumented individuals to feel comfortable around officers. Oliveira emphasized the amendment might compel people to show proof of documentation during any encounter with the police.
“If you’re going down the road and it happens to be a routine traffic stop check, that is a detention — It is not an arrest,” Oliveira said. “In the bill, it was always about arrest, committing a crime, making Texas safer.”
One of the proposed amendments to Schaefer’s amendment would exempt children from the provisions of SB 4. State Sen. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, said while he would love to kill the bill completely, he wants to at least protect children.
“All I’m asking is for some understanding,” Bernal said. “I want to ensure that children understand and that parents can tell their kids that it doesn’t apply to them.”
This amendment failed by a 55-89 vote.
Sam Cervantes, government and political communications sophomore, said he believes the bill would produce tension and undue fear for undocumented students like himself. University Leadership Initiative, an undocumented student-led organization that Cervantes is a part of, helped create Longhorns Against SB 4. This group marched from the University to the Capitol, made posters and held a sit in at the Capitol’s rotunda in protest of the bill. While the scope of the bill is yet to be determined, Cervantes said he is fearful of a potentially harmful version of the bill.
“SB 4 (was) at its most powerful state when it was introduced in the Senate,” Cervantes said. “In the event that it passes the House, we don’t know what version is going to be adopted.”
At the time The Daily Texan went to press, the House had debated SB 4 for 13 hours and considered 36 amendments without a final vote. This story will be updated on dailytexanonline.com