Activists React to Sanctuary City Legislation

A "sanctuary cities" bill that had been thought dead has now been resurrected in the Texas Legislature. The bill would give law enforcement officers the authority to check immigration status of anyone they detain. But as Laurie Johnson reports — civil rights activists call the legislation an outrage against freedom.

Representatives from about a dozen civil rights and immigrant rights groups gathered at the Latino Learning Center on the East side. They’re protesting the legislature’s last-minute move to enact Arizona-style legislation.

Former Houston Councilmember Gordon Quan is an immigration attorney. He says the legislation gives too much personal authority to officers.

“We have, again, a very diverse society in Houston. But if somebody wants to stop a person and say let me see your papers, they would have that authority.”

House Bill 12 and it’s companion Senate Bill 9 languished in committee, a legislative graveyard for bills at this late stage in the session.

But State Senator Tommy Williams of The Woodlands used a procedural maneuver to bring the issue back up for a vote this week.

Activist Maria Hinojosa testified against the bill to lawmakers, saying it will foster racial profiling and create a climate of fear in immigrant communities.



“Because the House has stalled in putting SB 9 on the calendar, this same senator, Tommy Williams, is taking provisions of SB 9 and attaching them to other bills. We’re now almost certain that in the last minute, smoke-filled rooms of the state capital in the last few hours of the state legislature, we may still see HB 12 and provisions of SB 9.”

Senator Williams was not available for an interview. The sanctuary city legislation is one of Governor Rick Perry’s priorities for the session. Proponents of the bill say it helps protect the state as violence increases along the Texas-Mexico border.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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