AUSTIN – State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, will introduce immigration legislation comparable to a law recently enacted in Arizona, according to an aide.
Rep. Berman, who is traveling in Europe, authorized the aide to respond to KVUE News’ request for information regarding his plans for the 82nd Legislative Session which begins in January 2011.
According to the aide, Berman said his bill will be similar to the Arizona law, specifically the provision which requires local law enforcement agencies in the state to check the immigration status of individuals who they suspect of being in the United States illegally.
While the bill is expected to look a lot like the Arizona law, at least one group of Texas lawmakers notes that the Texas Legislature is very different that the Arizona Legislature.
State Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, serves as the treasurer of the Mexican American Legislative caucus and said Berman's bill will face a very different political reality here in Texas.
“The public that knows Leo will know this isn’t the first time he’s filed related or similar legislation,” he said. "The Mexican American Legislative Caucus is almost a third of the Texas House, so the prospects of something like this passing the Texas House is very slim.”
Ortiz’ prediction doesn’t please Texas voters like Kelly Clark who grew up in Arizona and now lives in Leander.
“I'm an American. I pay taxes. I want people to know if there is somebody here that’s going to get paid to, basically, take money out of my mouth,” he said.
Clark dismissed worries over possibly requiring local Texas law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration statutes.
“I think law enforcement should be upholding all of it,” he said. “I don’t think the law should change from one location to another.”
Other Texas voters, including Shakshi Kshatriya, a Houston-native who now lives in Austin, worry such a law would lead to racial profiling and violates the U.S. Constitution.
“It really is just letting police pull over whomever they think is illegal and, actually, when you think about it, that is an outrage,” she said. “We have all these different, diverse groups of people. That’s going to be an insult on their own integrity.”
The two leading candidates for Texas governor – incumbent Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White, the former mayor of Houston – have declined to say if they would sign or veto such legislation if it ever reached their desk.
Whatever the fate of Berman’s bill, lawmakers including Ortiz expect a fight over the legislation, especially as worries continue to simmer along the border, that cartel drug violence in Mexico will spill into Texas.
“Nobody wants to see that happen, obviously, but the federal government obviously has an obligation to enforce federal laws and enforce immigration policy,” Ortiz said.