House committee starts work on Senate's sanctuary city bill
AUSTIN, Texas —
A House committee started work on its version of the contentious "sanctuary cities" bill Wednesday, and hundreds of people turned out for public comment.
The committee's amendments to SB 4, which already passed in the Senate, could bog down the Governor Greg Abbott's emergency bill.
About 500 people showed up, some as early as six hours in advance, to have their voices heard by lawmakers.
"We need to be a nation -- not a nation of not following laws," said a man from South Texas who only identified himself as Mike.
Around 490 of the people who signed up to provide public comment were against the bill, which would require local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials and make it a crime if cities, counties, and universities don't.
"This is where you stand up for America," said Jim Rigby, the pastor of North Austin church that has been providing sanctuary for a Guatemalan family for several months.
Rigby was at the State Capitol to testify Wednesday and says he won't back down, even if providing sanctuary is banned.
"If they make it criminal to be a Christian and offer hospitality to those fleeing violence, then we will pay whatever the cost is of that," Rigby said.
The son of a detained immigrant told lawmakers his dad was murdered in Mexico last year after being deported.
"And I don't want other people to go through the same thing me and my brothers went through," said Angel Ayala.
The committee's chair Representative Byron Cook, (R-Corsicana), echoed Senate Republicans' sentiment on the SB 6.
"Washington has failed to act, and so it's the job of the Texas legislature to keep citizens protected and safe," Cook said.
The House committee's amendments to the senate version include inquiring about immigration status only after someone is arrested and providing monetary assistance to law enforcement agencies to help them with immigration lawsuits, to name a few. But those measures won't likely appease opponents.
"There is overwhelming opposition to this bill," said Representative Rafael Anchia, (D-Dallas), alongside other members of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.
The group of House lawmakers held a press conference outside of the committee hearing and say that no version of the bill will be acceptable.
"We feel we are under attack, and this is another part of this narrative," Anchia said.
Some of the committee's concerns about the bill were that undocumented immigrants would be afraid to get medical care and to cooperate with law enforcement. At the end of the day, the committee left the vote pending.