The tens of thousands of undocumented Central American immigrants that illegally breached the Texas-Mexico border over the summer virtually guaranteed that immigration enforcement will be one of the centerpieces of the 84th Legislature.
But one legislative effort that got little traction was a proposed ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” the term for government entities that forbid local peace officers from enforcing federal immigration laws, including asking the immigration status of someone detained or arrested.
Arguments for and against mirrored 2011, when then-Gov. Rick Perry included a sanctuary city ban on his list of legislative emergency items. Opponents said a ban would lead to racial profiling and erode public trust in law enforcement. Proponents said it would help ferret out criminal immigrants and other people who aren’t legally allowed to live here.
While a sanctuary cities bill made it out of committee in the conservative Senate this year, the full chamber couldn't scrounge the votes to bring it to the floor. The upper chamber’s 11 Democrats have stood united in their opposition to sanctuary cities bills, and at least two Republicans were firmly against it.
Updated: June 1, 2015
An expansive border security bill declared a priority by Gov. Greg Abbott passed after months of disagreement between the House and the Senate on issues like how to staff and spend on the border, and in what capacity to keep the Texas National Guard in the Rio Grande Valley.
The bill, House Bill 11 by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, costs about $310 million for the 2016-17 biennium — part of a sweeping, $800 million border security budget lawmakers signed off on in the final days of the session.
The Texas National Guard was deployed last year to assist the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in its Operation Strong Safety, a surge of troopers dispatched in response to the tens of thousands of undocumented Central American immigrants entering Texas across its southern border. The final version of the bill maintains the so-called border surge of law enforcement officials in the Rio Grande Valley and requires that the Texas National Guard remain there until DPS hires and trains hundreds of troopers who will stay in the area permanently.
Updated: May 27, 2015
For years, former Gov. Rick Perry didn’t like E-Verify, the federal electronic employment verification system, and said it wasn’t a good option for Texas. Last year, shortly after President Obama’s executive order to halt deportations for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, Perry changed his mind, ordering all state agencies to begin using the system to crack down on hiring of unauthorized workers.
Before Perry’s order, some Republicans had already filed legislation mandating use of E-verify. During the 2015 legislative session, they codified it, passing a measure requiring state agencies and public universities to use it.
The measure as passed also clears up some confusion that followed Perry's executive order. It specifies that, in accordance with federal guidelines, the system cannot be used to verify the status of current employees, which Perry’s mandate initially required. It also charges the Texas Workforce Commission with enforcing the measure. Perry's order did not direct an agency to make sure the order is being followed.
Updated: April 7, 2015
The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.