After a 16-hour long hearing filled with emotional testimony and outbursts, the Senate Committee on State Affairs took a voted to send Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) on to the full Senate for a vote.
SB 4 will require all Texas law enforcement agencies to comply with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) detainers. The detainers are requests from ICE to hold an arrested person in custody while ICE investigates their immigration status. The vote from the committee came just days after Gov. Greg Abbott declared Tuesday that banning sanctuary cities is an emergency item. That declaration allowed law makers to break from standard procedure of waiting 60 days to vote on an item and start voting on it Wednesday.
For a lot of Texans, the swift action of the committee feels as though things are moving pretty fast.
"They generally do go slow and we all get used to legislators taking their time with everything, but when they need to or they want to, they can move very, very quickly," said Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor of The Texas Tribune.
Ramsey has been covering the legislature since 1989. He pointed out the battle on "sanctuary cities," which in this case are defined as cities that don't honor all ICE detainers, isn't new.
"The Senate has passed sanctuary city legislation in the past. The House has passed sanctuary city legislation in the past," said Ramsey. "They've just never been able to get together on the same bill."
So passing SB 4 quickly is a matter of strategy.
"The process is a bill comes over to the House, it lands in the House. They go through a process called referral where they say it's going to go to this committee or that one. Goes to that committee, that committee receives it, they hold a hearing. They might vote at that hearing like the Senate did yesterday on sanctuary cities, they might not vote right away. They might say lets come back and do another hearing later," Ramsey explained. "After that committee passes it out, if they do, they send it on to another committee called 'Calendars' which sets the agenda for the House and decides what day the full House is going to consider that on the floor."
"If the bill passing the House is different than the bill passing the Senate, then they go to negotiation. The first thing they do is they say 'Does the Senate want the House's version?' Senate can say yes and send it to the governor, or say no...and go off to a conference committee, negotiate their differences, each house has to vote on it again and then the governor gets it. It's designed to slow things down."
The Senate is expected to take a vote on SB 4 next week, but the House hasn't yet assigned committees.
"A lot of us don't think this is really necessary," said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) about SB 4.
He describes SB 4 as a "solution looking for a problem" and notes that Texas complies with detainer requests most of the time. According to data from ICE, from January 2014 to September 2015, Texas declined 0.22 percent, or 146, of all detainer requests sent out across the country.
Rodriguez agrees with Ramsey, saying SB 4 will likely be changed in the House.
"There may be some unintended consequences. If you have a jail for example that's full what are you going to do with an individual? What if an individual that you have a detainer request and that person's actually a US citizen? It was a mistake...what are you going to do with that individual? You really need to give, allow some discretion to local law enforcement," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez believes the House won't rush the bill through and is urging the public to remain engaged.