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Texas lawmakers prepare for a fight on immigration

I wrote yesterday about a Texas state lawmaker who camped out in the state House of Representatives — sleeping on the floor of the lobby for two days — to get her immigration-related bills in first for the next session. But she wasn’t the only state legislator to file bills cracking down on immigration: The Austin American-Statesman reports that more than 15 bills related to immigration were filed yesterday for the legislature to take up in its next 140-day session.

Texas has a good chance of passing anti-illegal immigration legislation due to Republican control of both the state House and Senate. Gov. Rick Perry (R), who was re-elected last week, favors more border security and tougher enforcement — although he opposes an Arizona SB 1070-style bill for Texas.

Rep. Debbie Riddle (R), the lawmaker who camped out at the state House, introduced two bills yesterday: one to require voters to prove their citizenship and another to crack down on illegal immigration as Arizona did with SB 1070. The Texas Tribune has a good summary of some of the other immigration bills filed in Texas yesterday:

Immigration-related bills filed by other state lawmakers would prohibit any state agency from printing signs or documents in any language besides English (state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van), require proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license (state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton) and call for Texas employers to participate in the federal E-Verify system, which enables businesses to check a worker’s immigration status before hiring (state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville).

Bills of this sort were filed in the 2007 and 2009 sessions, but Republican leaders — perhaps concluding that the immigration issue was too thorny politically — killed most of them before they could reach a final vote. While the courts continue to consider the constitutionality of Arizona-style measures allowing police to inquire about immigration status, next session is expected to be the best chance for a legislative remedy. With the GOP controlling all statewide offices, the top courts and nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Texas House and Senate, many of the tough measures that died in previous sessions are expected to have a much smoother route to passage.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, joined Riddle in filing the Texas version of the Arizona-style proposal, which not only allows officers to inquire as to the immigration status of anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” about and arrest offenders for trespassing if they are undocumented but also gives immunity to the arresting officer and the state from any lawsuits that result.

Beyond that, there are likely to be anti-illegal immigration bills from lawmakers like state Rep. Leo Berman (R), who told TWI he plans to introduce a bill limiting citizenship to children born to at least one parent legally residing in the United States, thereby denying citizenship to American-born children of undocumented immigrants.

Of course, Texas also has a large Latino population and a number of pro-immigration reform members in its legislature. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D), chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, tweeted a two-word response after Riddle’s anti-illegal immigration bills were filed yesterday: “Game on.”

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