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"We are Capable of Great Things" - SB 4 House Hearing
In a 10 hour marathon hearing on Wednesday, the House State Affairs committee heard Senate Bill 4, the controversial “sanctuary cities” bill that passed the Senate a few weeks ago. Senate Bill 4 gives broad latitude to local law enforcement, blurring the line between federal immigration officers and local law enforcement agencies. The bill also contains harsh punishments for cities and local entities that are determined to have violated the policies laid out in the bill.
A total of 638 people from all walks of life registered to testify, with 619 testifying against the bill. In contrast with the Senate committee, which immediately voted SB4 out after over 16 hours of testimony, House State Affairs did not vote on the bill, instead leaving it pending. Rep. Charlie Geren, the House sponsor of SB4, said repeatedly that he is willing to work with other legislators on the bill before the committee votes to send it to the full House.
Testimony against Senate Bill 4 came from law enforcement officers, lawyers, teachers, people of faith, children, and community members, all of whom would be negatively affected by this bill. Many individuals related personal stories about the hardships of being undocumented or having undocumented family members. They cited the detrimental effect this legislation would have on the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Many individuals also mentioned the financial burden that this bill would place on cities and counties. At one point, Rep. Helen Giddings left the dais to console a little girl who broke down crying in the middle of her testimony. “We are capable of great things, you just have to give us a chance. I know you don’t understand us, you don’t know what type of fear we live in,” she said, as Rep. Giddings stood by her side at the podium.
Texas Impact’s Director of Government Affairs, Joshua Houston, also testified against the bill citing specific communities and institutions of faith that would be impacted by the bill. Private universities, especially those with religious affiliations, and congregations that contract with off-duty police officers to provide security would be subject to this legislation. Our member institutions do not want contracted security enforcing immigration laws on parishioners coming to church, or any other house of worship.
Chairman Byron Cook opened the hearing by saying that this was a "difficult issue...one that is emotional for many." His measured and patient approach throughout the 10 hour hearing ensured that everyone's voice was respected. State Affairs will need to vote the bill out of committee before Senate Bill 4 gets put on the House calendar. Based on statements from the sponsor and other committee members, it seems that the committee will be making more changes to the current version of the bill before reporting it out.