What is going on in Texas? Or as they surely would put it at the Texas capitol, "what the hell is going on in Texas?"
Nothing good, at least on immigration. One need not be an advocate of both-siderism to assume trouble ahead when the Texas Tribune earlier this month featured such headlines as "Advocates call for more 'sanctuary congregations' ahead of new Texas law;"; "Paxton looks to get ahead of legal challenges to 'sanctuary cities' ban"; Houston Police Chief ready to reluctantly enforce 'sanctuary' law."
And those articles appeared weeks before the last day of the state legislature when, as described by Talking Points Memo
A Republican state lawmaker prompted a scuffle in the Texas House on Monday when he told his Democratic colleagues that it had called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on protesters in the capitol who were speaking out against a new immigration law.
Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi acknowledged in a Facebook post that he called ICE on people protesting SB4, a new law that will allow law enforcement to ask about the immigration status of anyone they detain. When Rinaldi told his colleagues in the state House that he had called ICE, he started a verbal altercation, according to Democratic members of the state House.
Here in New Jersey, we call a "verbal altercation" an "argument." Yet, in New Jersey (or anywhere else, presumably) things don't proceed in such a manner as that
Democratic state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. told reporters that Rinaldi told them, “I called ICE — fuck them,'” according to the Texas Tribune. Romero said that Rinaldi also said “Fuck you” directly to Democratic lawmakers, per the Texas Tribune.
At that point, Democratic state Rep. Cesar Blanco noted to Rinaldi that Italian Americans were also once immigrants, according to Romero.
Blanco told reporters that Rinaldi responded, “‘The difference between me and them is that I love this country.'”
That's an intriguing argument, especially because it is rarely made by Republicans, particularly when "Make America Great Again" was popularized by their presidential nominee, who obviously has contempt for American institutions and traditions. But if you think it couldn't have gotten worse in the Texas legislature, consider
Democratic state Rep. Justin Rodriguez told reporters that Rinaldi threatened to shoot one of his colleagues.
“There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads,” Rodriguez said of Rinaldi, according to the Texas Observer. “That kind of threatening language he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”
That may be acceptable by Texas standards, however, because
In a Facebook post, Rinaldi claimed that he was assaulted by Romero and threatened by Democratic state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez. Rinaldi said that he said he would use his gun in self-defense.
The bill had been signed by Republican governor Greg Abbott on May 7 after the state House of Representatives had passed it on a party-line vote after, reported the Texas Tribune
state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, successfully made what some Democratic members called an unprecedented motion to group all of the remaining amendments — more than 100 — and record them as failed. He said he made that suggestion so members wouldn't be forced to pull their amendments. The motion passed 114 to 29, with about a third of Democrats approving the measure.
Members voted on the bill after adding back a controversial provision that extends the scope of the bill and allows local peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain. The original House version of the bill only allowed officers to inquire about status during a lawful arrest.
This is no small matter. One GOP member characterized the legislation as "getting dangerous criminals off the street. That's the mission. Shouldn't be any more than that." Yet, the Republicans added back the provision allowing police officers to ask individuals not under arrest whether they are in the country illegally (video below preceded inclusion) as
That detainment language was included in what the Senate passed out of its chamber in February but was later removed by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, the bill’s House sponsor.
The amendment to add that provision back into the bill was offered by Tyler Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer, who was in the middle of a back-and-forth, deal-making struggle that stopped debate for more than hour. Both parties’ members caucused as they tried to hammer out a deal whereby Schaefer would pull his amendment and Democrats would limit the number of proposals they would offer.
Those proposals appear to have included
myriad amendments that sought to shield people at certain places from being subject to the provisions of the bill. Those include domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, pre-kindergarten schools, and public school events such as football games. All failed along party-line votes.
Raids at domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, pre-kindergarten schools: If one didn't know any better, one would think the GOP wanted to deprive immigrants of life-sustaining social services. Not surprisingly
no compromise was reached, despite several high-profile Republicans, including Geren and House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, telling members they would vote against the Schaefer proposal.
This portends serious problems for Texas, and not from violence among legislators or excessively punitive immigration policy. Democrats evidently were aware that the bill would pass and were willing to drop their amendments, but that was insufficient for Republicans, who pushed through a more extreme, worse bill. Their shenanigans bespeak a dysfunctional government in Austin. Come to think of it: that sounds a lot like the GOP in Washington, D.C.