10:51 AM Thu, Feb 26, 2009
Marcus Funk E-mail News tips
Immigration activists and Democratic lawmakers gathered this morning to promote "practical immigration policy." They said that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, provide great assets to the Texas economy, and that restricting or persecuting them would be a mistake.
They said a number of bills under review right now - including efforts grant immigration enforcement duties to local law enforcement, and proposals to restrict non-citizen access to public universities - are unhelpful and, occasionally, mean spirited.
"Every single person in this room stands for strong, safe communities. And we believe that the border is a place where we need to differentiate and talk about safety one way, and immigration another way," said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso (pictured above). "We will beat these mean-spirited bills, and we will keep Texas the friendly, welcoming place it has always been."
Lawmakers and lobbyists did not name names or highlight individual bills, and organizers with the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition said they were currently speaking in general terms. But specific initiatives were behind each of their talking points.
- First was an effort to grant identical drivers licenses to citizens and non-citizens, which is encapsulated in HB1619, a bill by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston. DPS currently requires non-citizens to use different licenses, which lobbyists say can generate racial profiling.
- Opposing efforts to restrict non-citizen access to public universities, which relates to HB418 by Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, HB50 by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston and HB255, by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.
- Opposing efforts to increase local law enforcement authority over immigration law, which speakers said was a federal responsibility. That relates to Riddle's HB49, and a few other proposals.
- Opposing efforts to regulate or penalize employers for not verifying employee's citizenship, or for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Those have ties to Riddle's HB48, Berman's HB266 and HB658, by Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton.