Friday, April 22, 2011

Mother of all Big Brother Bills clears committee in Senate

In a brief meeting this week the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee kicked out Sen. Tommy Williams SB 9, discussed here and here, which is more or less the Mother of all Big Brother legislation, at least for the 82nd session. Some of the objectionable parts of the bill were eliminated, including southbound checkpoints aimed at generating revenue from asset forfeiture, but it would still would require arresting peace officers instead of jailers to check immigration status, authorize the Department of Public Safety to use license plate readers, and let law enforcement place a GPS tracking device on your car without a warrant or other court order. Yuck, yuck, and triple-yuck.

The committee tacked on two amendments before kicking the bill out of committee, only one of which (by Sen. Kirk Watson) offered any remedies to the policy concerns on which this blog is focused: It says data from license plate readers can only be used for law enforcement purposes (as if that's some great limitation) and requires deletion of the data after one year if it's not used in criminal investigations. The amendment also makes data sharing agreements regarding information from license plate readers subject to the open records act. That's an improvement, I suppose, but still a far from satisfying gruel we're being forced to swallow. I'd rather the data be deleted immediately if license plate readers don't result in a "hit" for warrants, stolen cars, etc.. And rather than for "law enforcement purposes," IMO the information should be restricted for use in "criminal investigations." That way the focus will stay on stolen cars and fugitives instead of trolling the general public looking for people with outstanding traffic warrants.

Coverage of the bill from the Rio Grande Valley - the only media who seem to be paying much attention besides Grits and the Texas Observer - has focused mainly on the expansion of immigration checks, putting the onus on police officers in the field instead of performing the task at the county jail. I can't believe more media attention hasn't focused on the suggestion that police can put a GPS tracker on your car without a warrant! For whatever reason, and there are plenty available, I'm hopeful this bill gets tripped up somewhere along the line.


Unknown said...

These are scary days for the citizens of Texas. Cathy

Prison Doc said...

This is all too depressing. I am about ready to take a leave of absence from the criminal justice blogs and focus on theology and electing Sarah Palin.

Anonymous said...

Few immigration bills have escaped the Texas legislature’s committees to date. Out of more than 75 immigration bills tracked by the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, only a handful are ready for a floor vote with just more than a month left in the session.

Gov. Rick Perry’s emergency legislation to abolish sanctuary cities — which essentially prevents jurisdictions from prohibiting law enforcement to ask about a person’s immigration status — passed out of the State Affairs Committee in mid-March but has yet to be scheduled for a House floor debate.

Anonymous said...

The legislation expands application of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program to city detention facilities, preventing undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes from being released back into the community.

Yes, we want them back in our communities. Please, please don't sent them back to their own country!