Sanctuary cities and the horns of the Republican dilemma

University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll

Good morning Austin:

On Saturday, Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County GOP chairman, spoke passionately before the Texas State Republican Executive Committee about why they ought to elect him the new state party chairman, succeeding Steve Munisteri.

I believe if we are going to be the party of the majority for 2015 and beyond, we are going to have to have  a big, bold vision for this state. We’re going to have to be a party that stands for its party platform, that stands on  principle, that is on the front lines every single day fighting for those core values and beliefs that we find in our party platform. I think I’ve proven that, I’ve proven time and time again that I’m not going to back down, I’m not going to run, I’m not going to surrender when it comes to standing up for our party platform. And I’ll tell you it’s not always easy, it’s not always easy. People in the trenches know that if you stand for something, you’re going to be attacked. When you stand against an Obama administration that’s trying to nationalize one-sixth of our economy, you are going to be attacked. When you stand up to protect our borders and against sanctuary cities and in-state tuition, you are going to be attacked, and against illegal immigrants getting better health care than veterans, you’re going to be attacked. When you stand for the Second Amendment and against an Obama administration that’s trying to outlaw ammunition for AR-15s, you are going to be attacked. But I welcome those attacks, folks. I welcome those attacks every single day because if we are going to be the majority party in ’15 and beyond, we are going to have to stand for something.

Woodfill did not prevail, though he did better than some expected, finishing tied for second in the four-man race on the first ballot. The leader on that first ballot, Tom Mechler of Amarillo, who clinched the job on the second ballot, also happened to have chaired the committee that hammered out the hard-right platform at the party’s 2014 convention that Woodfill said the party needs to more demonstratively promote and defend. (Woodfill, if he chooses, can take another crack at the chairmanship at the 2016 state convention, when Mechler will seek a full, tw0-year term.)

But, when Mechler accepted his victory, he didn’t talk about the platform, instead emphasizing the demographic imperative facing the party – to improve its standing with minority and particularly Hispanic voters, or perish as the dominating majority party in Texas.

This then is the horns of the Texas Republican Party’s dilemma, and on Monday, the horns were sharpened with an attempt by Senate Republicans to hold a hearing, with little notice, on a bill by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, targeting sanctuary cities, a move that Senate Democrats quickly scuttled, for the moment.

As Tim Eaton reported in today’s American-Statesman:

State Sen. José Rodríguez prevented a hearing from occurring Monday on a divisive immigration-related bill.

Rodríguez, D-El Paso, put a so-called tag on Senate Bill 185 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who seeks to outlaw “sanctuary cities” by prohibiting Texas governmental entities from passing laws to restrict police from asking about immigration status. Rodríguez said after the 8 a.m. meeting that he employed a procedural move to allow more time for discussion on the issue that raises passions on both sides. The bill was not properly posted on Friday, and the public was not given enough time as outlined in the Senate rules before the scheduled hearing, Rodríguez said.

“There was very little time for people to come and testify,” he said.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury and chairman of the Border Security Subcommittee of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, took the blame for the improper posting and said the bill would be heard next Monday.

After Birdwell pushed back the hearing, Rodríguez gave an impromptu news conference with state Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. Rodríguez said he would fight Republicans’ attempts to pass SB 185, which he called an Arizona-style “show-me-your-papers” proposal.

 Watson added that the measure deserves a “full, complete and robust discussion” in which the public should be able to participate.

Garcia said a real debate is necessary before lawmakers move toward a policy that would lead to racial profiling and police stopping Hispanics for “driving while brown.”

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said Perry’s proposal would “hinder and harm” Austin police officers from fighting violent crime.

The hearing has been rescheduled for next Monday.

Here is a video of the press conference Senate Democrats held yesterday after the hearing was canceled.

A bill to ban sanctuary cities, on the face of it, would enjoy broad, but very uneven, public support. The most recent Texas polling, from a few years ago, found Anglos, especially tea party Republicans, most in synch with its thinking, but Democrats, and Hispanics, far less sympathetic. It also generates opposition from both business and labor, and local law enforcement. It is probably not an issue that Governor Abbott is terribly excited to see surface, important to his base but complicating Hispanic outreach, and nettlesome to some big donors. He probably prefers to focus the energy and attention on immigration to border security, which he made an emergency item, and not sanctuary cities, which he didn’t.

From Jim Henson, the head of the Texas Politics Project at UT, this morning:

I think immigration attitudes among Republicans have been very restrictive for quite a while and remain so. The deployment of the Guard to the border may have caused slight increases in the degree and intensity of these attitudes, but the baseline has been present for several years (per the piece I sent and the data in it).

I agree that Abbott, to some degree like Perry before him, emphasizes border security as an issue rather than issues that show more partisan division, like in-state tuition and “sanctuary cities.” The political logic of this is pretty clear. The issue of border security doesn’t just resonate with attitudes on immigration — it also invokes public safety and/or law and order. This is probably why you see Democrats much more evenly split on issues like the deployment of the National Guard last summer than on immediate deportation.

Calling for mandatory local enforcement of federal immigration law has been a politically alluring play for Republicans since Perry’s use of the issue in the 2010 campaign — but he didn’t stick with the issue as a major plank, at least not in that construction. But the pushback in the much more demanding environment of the legislature in 2011 — particularly from important business elements and local law enforcement — illustrated the political limitations of playing to the base with this particular issue. Perry subsequently abandoned it in 2013. The pushback we’ve seen in the last few days from the expected Democratic and humanitarian sources is likely to be only the leading edge of other opposition to the measure.

This doesn’t mean anti- “sanctuary city” legislation doesn’t have the potential to move, especially in a legislature with many lawmakers looking over their right shoulders at a very conservative primary electorate. The tenor of the debate over state-level policy on border security may also have shifted the terrain in ways that add resonance to the use of “sanctuary cities” as a gesture in the direction of securing the border.

Here is Sen. Perry’s statement from yesterday: “Today, unfortunately, some placed political posturing over public safety and common sense. Our bill is simple, cities cannot pick and choose the laws they want to enforce; public safety, not political correctness should be the priority. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to pass this bill and place this crucial legislation on the Governor’s desk by the end of Session.”
And here are the talking points on the issue from Sen. Perry’s office:
Definition of a Sanctuary City: Cities and other jurisdictions prohibit law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws or reporting information in relation to immigration status to the federal government.Sanctuary Cities in Texas: Austin, Baytown, Brownsville, Channelview, Denton, Dallas, El Cenizo, Ft. Worth, Houston, Katy, Laredo, McAllen, Port Arthur.

^ Disclosure: There is no legal definition of a sanctuary city.

A few important things on the bill to note:

– This bill does not mandate a city or officer to do anything, it simply states there cannot be a blanket policy that prohibits the enforcement of state and federal immigration laws.

– This bill has nothing to do with the “Arizona law”, there is nothing in our bill that gives officers permission to pull people over and “check their papers” as Rodriguez stated this morning. The only way an officer can inquire about a person’s immigration status is if they have been arrested or lawfully detained for a criminal offense.

– The US Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that it is Constitutional for an officer to inquire about immigration status with individuals that have been arrested or lawfully detained.

– Additionally, the bill explicitly states that they ” may not consider race, color, language, or national origin while enforcing the laws”

– If a municipality was refusing to enforce DWI laws, no one would have objections to this bill. Why are there objections to asking cities to allow law enforcement to enforce the laws already on

Public Safety Stats from DPS: http://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/crime_records/pages/txCriminalAlienStatistics.htm

– According DHS status indicators, over 145,000 criminal aliens have been booked into local Texas jails between June 1, 2011 and December 31, 2014.

– Of the total criminal aliens arrested in that timeframe, over 96,000 or 53% were identified by DHS status as being in the US illegally at the time of their last arrest.

 – Those arrests include 795 homicide charges; 45,641 assault charges and 4,039 sexual assault charges.
Sen. Perry’s spokesman ,Travis McCormick said that, “while our office did not have a press conference this morning, we met with supporters of the bill in our office. Below are some of their stories:”
What he provided were videos shot in his office of two parents talking about the murders of their children by people living illegally in Texas, the suggestion being that, they were, in effect, under the current state of affairs, enjoying “sanctuary” in America with terrible results.
Here’s some of the immediate negative response to the renewed push against “sanctuary cities.”
From Charles Kuffner: It’s another attack on local control, only in reverse, as this time it aims to compel cities to do something they don’t want to do.
 
From Ed Sills, communications director for the Texas AFL-CIO: The United Labor Legislative Committee today OPPOSED SB 185 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill that would encourage police officers to inquire of anyone detained for questioning or arrested regarding immigration status. No Texas city currently has a formal “sanctuary cities” policy, though many police officers believe that leaving immigration questions to the federal government, which has jurisdiction, is essential to conduct effective community policing strategies. The “Show me your papers” bill would prohibit cities from sanctioning police officers who question detainees on immigration status.
From the Texas Tribune’s by Julián Aguilar: Opponents of the bill said Republicans only hurt their efforts by trying to fast-track the bill. “They woke up a sleeping evangelical, Latino giant,” said Pastor Lynn Godsey, the president of the Coalición Evangélica de Alianzas de Texas, a faith-based immigrant rights group. “We’re awake and we ain’t going back to sleep. This move here today was a bad move, y’all.”
From Eaton:
Democrats attributed the 2011 bill’s failure to opposition from the business community, law enforcement groups, local governments and faith-based organizations. Watson said he hopes they will come together again.“In the current environment of the Capitol, this bill has a good chance of passage,” Watson said. “However, I don’t know if it is guaranteed passage if we have the kind of full, complete and robust debate that we should have.The last time that University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll asked about sanctuary cities was in 2011, but Henson, who co-directs the poll, said today, “I doubt attitudes have changed much on the issue. It still remains a vessel for partisan attitudes about immigration.”

Below are the results on two sets of questions, one directly on whether or not the respondent approves or disapproves of city governments that choose not to enforce some immigration laws, with results also broken down by party and race, and a second, more subtly worded question, about whether local police should have to enforce federal immigration laws all the time, some of the time or never, with results broken down also by party, race and identification with the tea party.

University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

Here is the question asked differently.

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll

It remains to be seen whether, as this issue plays out this session, the past may be prologue,.

Here is Jim Henson’s take on the issue when it occupied center stage for a while in 2011.

The strange saga of anti-sanctuary cities legislation in the 82nd session amplified the sharp dissonance around immigration politics inside the Texas Republican Party. The essence of the problem is the conflict between conservative Republican voters with intense preferences for restrictions on immigrants and immigration, on one hand, and the much more pragmatic positions of key Republican leaders, elected officials, and business interests in the state on the other. Gov. Rick Perry, as the leader of the party, has maneuvered through this conflict with mixed results. Whatever his place in the party and his political future, the problem is built into the coalition of interests in the Texas GOP.

Legislation prohibiting cities from declining to enforce federal immigration law was incarnated as a campaign issue by candidate Perry in the 2010 gubernatorial race, then rose again as an emergency item declared by the governor as the session began. The legislation haunted both the legislative sessions, with a version passing in the House but not the Senate in the regular session, then another version passing in the Senate but not the House in the special session. The failures were greeted with relief by Democrats, who had fought the legislation tooth and nail, and with howls of displeasure from conservative Republicans and allied groups.