When it was time to file bills ahead of the 2011 Texas legislative session, the race to address illegal immigration was so urgent that one Houston-area representative camped out on the steps of the Capitol to ensure she was the first to propose making it a state crime to be in Texas without papers.By comparison, this year hardly any similar bills have been filed so far. The story attributed that to "The widely held perception ... that harsh rhetoric on immigration helped sink Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in November, and could do the same to the Republican majority in Texas." Maybe so: There's still a long time between now and the end of bill filing season, though.
As lawmakers prepare for the 2013 session, they are mostly silent on the immigration front. Those calling for states to crack down on immigration in Texas saw their efforts dissolve last year as lawmakers struggled to pass a budget.
The ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” which Gov. Rick Perry had deemed emergency legislation, died in a late-night committee hearing as Republicans watched evangelical and big business leaders line up with Democrats to defeat the bill.
Nationally I know Republicans are worried about those issues, but here in Texas, despite the best estimates of our finest actors, the Latino demographic shift benefiting Democrats isn't projected by most pollsters to overtake Rs in statewide races until perhaps 2022, as Rick Perry's pollster Mike Baselice estimated privately a few years ago, or even later, by some estimates. Politically, that puts it too far in the future to worry about for the next few election cycles, except perhaps for a handful of identifiable swing districts. (A mentor once told me that any public-policy statistical projection extending beyond five years into the future amounts to "fiction writing.") Still, Texas Republicans also care about national politics, and we do seem to be at a moment where numerous national GOP figures have risked apostasy from the party's hard line to support the Dream Act and even a "path to citizenship." There's a sense that everyone's waiting, that there's a deal to be had but it hasn't yet been fleshed out behind the scenes. We'll see.
Have time, and a presidential election, evinced a change of heart among Republicans on immigration? Perhaps momentarily, but I fear too many sitting politicians have put too much political capital into the issue for it to go away quietly. Maybe we'll get lucky and Congress will soon seize the opportunity afforded by this election-driven emendation to pass national immigration reform. Immigration should be something that rarely comes up on a blog devoted to state-level criminal justice issues, and Grits would be thrilled for Congress to take the issue off my plate, and even better, the Texas Legislature's.