Immigration Reform Bill in Austin Already Drawing Fire

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

TEXAS--HB 532, sponsored by Rep. Tryon Lewis, is already causing controversy.  The lines are already divided as to whether this is actual reform or racial profiling.

HB 532 was only introduced last Friday, but the battle lines have been drawn. Supporters say it's a way to better control illegal immigration. But opponents say it's setting the Lone Star State up to become another Arizona.

According to Art Leal, with Una Voz Unida in Odessa, "I think there was about 1,000 protestors in Austin (Tuesday) saying we don't want this in Texas."

People on both sides of the fence are speaking out about the proposed house bill.  If passed, it gives Texas law enforcement the right to check the immigration status of anyone arrested, if they have reason to think, they are in this country illegally.

"On the surface, you could have a normal bill, routine, making sure officers are doing what they're already doing, checking status after an arrest. When you read the bill, when you get a little bit deeper into the bill you see the Arizona-like language and the amendments to the state penal code, like warrant-less arrest and probable cause, which haven't been defined by anyone yet," Leal commented.

Leal fears this bill will open the door for racial profiling, "People hate that word but that's what's going to happen. People are going to start looking at the way you dress, what you drive, the way you talk. If you talk a little bit funny, they're going to use those determining factors to determine what probable cause is."

Supporters of the bill, like Talk Radio host Craig Anderson disagree. He and others like him, see this as a much needed tool in an ongoing fight.

"I think it's a good thing to do because it's cracking down on the illegal immigration problem which is a big issue. It's not a racial thing. We hear that all the time but it's not. If you come in from Sweden or what ever country you come in from, you've broken the law by being here illegally," Anderson explained.

Anderson says he's received calls on his radio show that support the action Rep. Lewis is taking with this bill, "Many of the Hispanics that do call in, that are citizens, do agree with what I say, that something needs to be done about the number of illegals coming into the country."

Among Leal's fears, with this proposed legislation, Texas will quickly turn into another Arizona battleground, with a long fight to come.

"Everything is the same, warrant-less arrest, probable cause. Officers are already doing what they're supposed to do when they arrest somebody for a felony. I think it's shameful to try to sneak this in there," Leal said.

Anderson says, that's not necessarily so.

In a non-recorded phone interview, Rep. Tryon Lewis strongly disagreed that this bill is similar to the recently passed Arizona law.  HB 532 would only allow the detention of suspected illegal immigrants for 48 hours and not their prosecution.

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