No to Arizona law in Texas: El Paso leaders, groups to fight immigration bills
AUSTIN — Arizona-style laws that crack down on illegal immigration will not make it into Texas without a fight.
At least that’s the impression left by El Paso leaders and prominent business and civil- rights groups who gathered Thursday in Austin to denounce any legislation that offers even a semblance of what Arizona passed last year.
[Jose] Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said he hopes that fellow lawmakers will reject “anti-immigrant” bills and instead focus on more pressing issues.
He said such legislation would “tarnish” Texas’ image as a pro-business state that offers opportunities to its residents.
“These anti-immigrant measures send the opposite message,” he said. “They send a message that these opportunities are only available for some people and not others.”
[El Paso County Sheriff Richard] Wiles, a Democrat, said he does not support illegal immigration, but he called the passage of such legislation bad policy. He said it would put further demands on already strained law enforcement and saddle state and county taxpayers with extra costs that should stay at the federal level.
Wiles said the federal government trains agencies to deal with complicated immigration issues and defends them if they make a mistake.
“If a local law enforcement officer messes up and stops somebody and makes an improper arrest and they get sued, who is going to defend that officer, and if we lose in court, who is going to pay the suit?” Wiles said.
“It’s going to be the local taxpayers.”
The sheriff said assertions by some lawmakers who say the legislation would help quell the threat of spillover violence from Juárez, Mexico, are “absolutely ludicrous.”
“Those issues that are occurring in Juárez right now have nothing to do with the immigration problem,” he said. “Those issues are about the drug trade, about cartels fighting each other.”
Still, Wiles said his biggest concern is that if sheriff’s de puties are required to enforce federal immigration law, undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes or witness a crime will not come forward.
“If they do that and that trust and relationship breaks down, we have the potential of increasing crimes in our communities,” Wiles said. He added that El Paso received its ranking as the safest large city in Texas in part because of the relationship between law enforcement and residents.