GOP Reps Scuttle Dem Amendment
in Test Vote on Sweeping Border Bill
November 14, 2023
Texas House Republicans were poised on Tuesday to approve a radical immigration enforcement measure after turning back a move by Democrats that would have gutted the proposal on a strict party line vote.
The Republicans voted 80-62 to bury an amendment that State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado of Dallas offered in an attempt to kill Senate Bill 4 at the outset of the debate by eliminating the enacting clause. All of the GOP representatives opposed the Neave Criado amendment while the Democrats all united behind it.
The House tentatively approved a separate proposal in Senate Bill 3 that would pave the way for an additional appropriation of $1.5 billion for the construction of a border wall and $40 million more for increased security at the subdivision Colony Ridge near Houston. House members backed SB 3 on an 86-56 vote on Tuesday with three Democrats siding with their colleagues from the GOP.
Sponsored by GOP State Rep. David Spiller of Jacksboro, SB 4 would give state and local police the ability to arrest people on a misdemeanor offense for entering the state illegally across the Rio Grande. Magistrate judges would have the power to order migrants to return to Mexico if they agree to avoid being charged with the new crime and serving time behind bars. Those who don't go back to Mexico could be deported if they're convicted after serving sentences.
Spiller said that he believes SB 4 is constitutional and posed no conflict with federal law. But the House's other Republicans showed no concern whether the bill will survive in the courts as a measure that they can tell primary voters they did everything in their power to pass.
Democratic State Rep. Josey Garcia of San Antonio unleashed a blistering critique of SB 4 in a speech in support of the Neave Criado amendment. Garcia - a freshman lawmaker who served 20 years in the military - said the Spiller measure is unconstitutional, unAmerican and immoral by targeting people who are suffering. Garcia said the bill would be "empowering" white supremacists.
"We're better than this," Garcia said. "Texas is better than this."
Democrats argued that SB 4 would violate due process and preempt federal law and the U.S. Constitution on an array of fronts including ex-post facto laws that prohibit charging people regressively with crimes that did not exist when actions that may be illegal now took place. The bill appears to ignore the supremacy clause that provides that federal law supersedes state policies.
Democratic State Reps. Oscar Longoria of Mission, Armando Martinez of Weslaco and Mary Ann Perez of Houston voted with the Republicans on the border barrier funds in SB 3.
more to come ...