The 85th session of the Texas state legislature concluded on May 29, 2017, with several controversial topics in the air, hundreds of protesters on the balconies of the Capitol building, and a near fist-fight on the House floor. Here are five pieces of legislation circulating in Texan politics that the entire nation should be concerned and outraged by:
Senate Bill 4 — Statewide Ban on Sanctuary Cities
It has long been President Trump’s goal to rid the country of sanctuary cities – cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws and therefore limiting the intervention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Large, metropolitan cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City fall under this umbrella, as well as several counties in Iowa, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In Texas specifically, only Travis and Dallas counties are labeled as sanctuary cities. Earlier this year, when President Trump’s exec[dropcap][/dropcap]utive order on immigration caused ICE to raid several sanctuary cities across the country, Travis County declined 142 requests to hold unauthorized immigrants out of a total 206 – roughly 69%. In the Austin area alone, 51 people were detained and 28 of them had no criminal record. What ICE called “collateral apprehensions” were traumatizing events for the loved ones of detainees – completely innocent people who had worked to make a safe life for themselves and their families. An Austin American Statesman article profiled some of those who were arrested in mid-February and revealed the fear and shock that Austin’s immigrant community was plunged into.
Governor Gregg Abbott has been threatening a statewide ban on sanctuary cities ever since these events and unfortunately, he made this threat a terrifying reality for immigrants all across Texas by signing Senate Bill 4 into law. It will go into effect on September 1, 2017 and will enforce “criminal and civil penalties for local government entities and law enforcement that don’t comply with immigration laws and detention requests.” This means that any policies enacted by Travis County to limit ICE involvement will be void, and local law enforcement will be forced to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Gov. Abbott claims that this law was signed in the name of “‘public safety,'” – a ridiculous, hypocritical statement to make now that thousands of families will now be in danger of being torn apart.
Pictured: Pedro Paredes / Photo Credit: CNN
On the final day of the legislative session, hundreds of people swarmed the capital building protesting SB4. A resonating chant -“SB4 has got to go!” – took over the Texas House of Representatives and interrupted proceeds for 20 minutes. That was when Representative Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, allegedly called ICE to arrest some of the protesters, “although ICE said that its officers ‘received no such call from local lawmakers.'” This claim by Rinaldi caused a physical altercation on the House floor between members of both parties. Rinaldi released a statement on Twitter claiming that Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, “‘threatened my life on the House floor’ and that his comments were made in self-defense.” Nevárez responded in a tweet, calling Rinaldi a “liar and hateful man.” Watch the video of the altercation here.
Senate Bill 6 — Bathroom Bill (AKA We Don’t Want to Let Transgender Students Live Bill)
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has been screeching about transgender students using their preferred bathroom at school since last summer when the superintendent of Fort Worth ISD allowed students to use whichever bathroom corresponded with their gender identity. Patrick called this decision “the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public school.” Conservative politicians think that students using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity will endanger students. However, in reality, transgender students will undoubtedly face more ridicule if they are forced to go into the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.
On that fateful Monday, May 29, Lt. Governor Patrick threatened to ask Gov. Abbott for a special session specifically to pass this bathroom bill, which he called a “must-pass” piece of legislation. According to Houston Press, a special session would cost Texas taxpayers $800,000. Unfortunately, it is likely that the session will be called simply to discuss how exactly to make school a living hell for transgender students.
Pictured: Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Photo Credit: MyStatesman
Senate Bills 8, 415, and 258 — More Abortion Restrictions
The Republican, white, male-led Texas legislature just never wants to leave Texas women alone. Senate Bill 8, authored by Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, aims to prohibit the donation of fetal remains for scientific research. SB 415, authored by Sen.Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, targets “‘dilation and evacuation’ abortions — second-trimester procedures where doctors use surgical instruments to grasp and remove pieces of fetal tissue. Opponents call them ‘dismemberment abortions.'” Finally, SB 258, authored by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, requires burial or cremation of the remains. He claimed that the purpose of the bill was to maintain the “dignity of the unborn,” however opponents claim that is simply more financial and emotional punishment for women seeking abortions.
These bills do nothing for the reproductive health of women and instead, simply aim to further complicate and contort the already tight procedures for getting an abortion in Texas. These tactics used by conservative white lawmakers continue to strive to shame and punish women who seek abortions.
Pictured: Protestors of Texas’ fetal remains burial rule gather outside the Governor’s Mansion on Jan. 6, 2017. Photo Credit: Texas Tribune
It’s true what they say: everything is bigger in Texas, especially the bigotry and racism. Angry about what you’ve read? Feel free to contact Texas lawmakers here! We need everyone’s help to prevent harmful state legislation like this from spreading throughout the nation.