Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Georgia Demonstrates Outcome of Texas' Anti-Immigrant Sanctuary Cities Bill

Update Wednesday June 29, 2011 @ 8:30am
Sanctuary cities legislation is dead for this special legislative session?

Gov. Rick Perry released a statement blaming Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, for the death of the sanctuary cities bill, which the governor added to the special session call.

"Unfortunately, SB1 Conference Committee Chairman Robert Duncan ultimately refused to allow language related to the ban of sanctuary cities into the final version of Senate Bill 1," Perry wrote in his statement. "Because of this action, the special session will not provide our peace officers with the discretion they need to adequately keep Texans safe from those that would do them harm.”
This morning, Senate Republicans and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also released a statement blaming around on the House for killing the sanctuary cities legislation.
"The Senate passed SB 9, the sanctuary cities bill, with unanimous Republican support two weeks ago, and nothing has happened," Dewhurst said in a statement. "If the House really wants to pass sanctuary cities, they should pass it today."
Original Post Saturday June 25, 2011 @ 2:34am
Texas Senate Republicans again, push aside strong objections from Democrats to pass legislation that would ban so-called sanctuary cities. That legislation gives police officers broad powers - similar to Arizona's anti-immigrant "your papers, please" legislation - and subjects anyone stopped by Texas law enforcement officers to show their proof of citizenship documents. Anyone not carrying proof of citizenship documents must be detained and taken into custody.

The 19-12 Senate vote early Wednesday came after nearly eight hours of emotional debate in which Democrats railed against the bill as racist and a tool to harass Latinos. The bill pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry now goes to the House for consideration, where it is expected to easily pass. The Republican super-majority in the House passed a similar version during the regular session.

Perry and supporters say the bill will help protect Texas communities illegal immigrants. But opponents, including law enforcement chiefs in the state's largest cities and immigrant rights activists, say the measure will allow rogue officers to target Hispanics.

"This bill is open season on Latinos," said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, "This bill is the most racist, Latino-bashing, anti-immigrant bill I've ever seen."

A sanctuary city is a city where the police department has been ordered to not question the immigrant status of people they come into contact with. There are no cities in Texas where the police department has official received orders like that from the city government, but nearly all law enforcement departments in the state virtually ignore the issue immigrant status.

This serves Texans in two ways. First, immigration is a federal problem and the states should not be spending their law enforcement budget on immigration issues. Second, by ignoring immigration status law enforcement agencies have been able to build a relationship with the immigrant community. This relationship serves to keep criminal activity low, since the immigrant community more readily reports crime and acts as witnesses to help the police, the courts and the community at large.

Two of Texas' most politically-involved big business leaders, Houston home builder Bob Perry and San Antonio grocery store magnate Charles Butt, also oppose the anti-immigrant sanctuary cities bill. The opposition of the business leaders demonstrates a schism in the Republican Party on the issue, designated a priority by Gov. Rick Perry. Bob Perry, no relation to the governor, is a prolific Republican contributor who has given $2.5 million to the governor's campaign coffers since 2001. HEB CEO Butt has made substantial contributions to members of both parties.

"These are two prominent, very smart, very successful businessmen in Texas who understand what the implication would be, what the unintended consequences of the legislation would be," said Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. [Houston Chronicle]
Texas is the second-largest agricultural state in the United States, accounting for about 7 percent of the total U.S. agricultural income, with an economic impact of about $100 billion on the Texas economy.

Agriculture is the second-largest resource-based industry in Texas employing one out of every seven working Texans and producing about 9 percent of the state's gross product.

There are an estimated 132,034 migrant farm workers and 78,078 non-farm workers in migrant households in Texas.

The bill about to be passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry could have unexpectedly devastating consequences on the Texas economy, just as a similar anti-immigrant law passed in Georgia in April of this year is creating havoc for Georgia's agriculture economy.

Georgia, which passed an Arizona-style immigration bill in April that is due to take effect next month, has seen tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants flee or not return to the state as crops ripen in the fields and orchards.

A state survey returned by a small portion of the state's ag-business owners reported 11,080 vacant positions that needed to be filled to avoid losing crops. Gov. Deal, a first-term Georgia Republican, announced a program to link the state’s 100,000 probationers with farmers looking to fill positions. As many as two-thirds of probationers who have tried working on Georgia's farms in the last week have either walked off the job or not come back for a second day.

Now the state's agriculture industry is in trouble. Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, estimates farms have already lost $300 million and could lose up to $1 billion this year if it does not get access to a reliable workforce.

Georgia’s crops, Tolar said, are “already rotting in the field and falling to the ground. We’ve got blackberries that are mature. And when they’re not picked, they drop. When they drop, they’re done.”

This is bad news for anyone who relishes Georgia peanuts, peaches, vidalia onions or the many other delicious foods grown in the state.

The trouble is not confined to Georgia - food prices could jump in supermarkets across the U.S. as food grown in the U.S. rots in the fields and orchards while food grown outside the U.S. is imported to make up the difference. And, of course, that pushes our already deeply negative balance of trade even deeper into negative territory.

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