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Immigration Bills Get New Life In Texas Senate, Despite Dissent In Republican Camp

Ryan E. Poppe

Two immigration-related bills on proposals to ban sanctuary cities and end in-state tuition for immigrants, believed to have been all but dead, are back on the Texas Senate’s agenda despite vocal opposition from a handful of Republicans.

For months, senators, reporters and those watching from the gallery have anxiously awaited a vote on the two controversial bills. For a time though, the bill prohibiting sanctuary city style policies, where local governments practice policies that do not hinder illegal immigrants, in effect “protecting” them, and another, repealing an in-state tuition program that was made available to undocumented immigrant students in the state in 2001, were considered dead.

But this week, the two bills have returned to the Texas Senate’s calendar despite criticism from state Senators like Tyler Republican Kevin Eltife.

“We have city governments that do a fantastic job of passing their own laws on how law enforcement deals with all these issues. I think it ought to be a local issue. I trust my law enforcement in my district and I trust law enforcement statewide on how to do their job and I don’t think the state should tell them how to do their job,” said Eltife.

Eltife, who was pretty straight on where he stood on the so-called sanctuary cities, said he also plans to vote against the effort to repeal in-state tuition because he believes that would reduce jobs for Texas’ growing economy.  

Interestingly, as to why the bills have been added to the Senate’s intent calendar, neither Eltife, nor Wichita Falls Republican Sen. Craig Estes, a confirmed “yes vote” on any proposed repeal of programs like the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who graduate from Texas high schools and who have lived in the state at least three years to pay in-state tuition at community colleges and public universities, indicated it was because they had changed their positions.

Eltife was specific. “I’m all over the place on the record against these bills,” said Eltife. “I’m happy to stand on the Senate floor and vote no on both. Call them up, let me vote no, I’d be happy to. I would actually be proud to.”

In order to become law, both bills must be voted out of the Senate. The House would have to pass them in both committee and on the floor before May 26, otherwise the bills die this session. 

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.