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Sanctuary City Bill a Huge Headache for Schools

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In a rushed State Affairs committee meeting Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, pointed out that the sanctuary city immigration bill, that’s being pushed by Governor Perry, would force school districts to violate federal law.

Last week, during six hours of testimony numerous police chiefs and law enforcement officials testified against HB 12, which allows officers to ask for citizenship status and prohibits any law enforcement agency from stopping them. What didn’t come up in any depth, however, was the devastating impact the bill would have on school districts.

House Bill 12 takes away state funding from any state agency, including school districts, that doesn’t enforce federal immigration law. This puts school districts on a direct collision with the federal law Plyler vs. Doe, which prohibits schools from asking students for their citizenship status. If school districts do adopt policies allowing officials to check immigration status they’ll violate federal law, but if they don’t they stand to lose their state funding under HB 12. “And we’re talking about taking every state dollar.” Oliveira said. “It’s not a border issue, or a Hispanic or Latino issue. It’s about children now.”

Oliveira offered an amendment to Solomons’ bill exempting school districts, but HB 12’s impact on education wasn’t his only concern. Oliveira also voiced the fear that many law enforcement critics of the bill share—that without the power to allocate and manage their funding, the bill will put a financial strain on under-resourced law enforcement agencies. Rep. Pete Gallego took a shot at the bill’s author asking, “How does your mandate comply with your constitutional amendment on unfunded mandates?”

In light of Oliveira’s findings, Committee Chair Byron Cook moved to postpone further debate on HB 12 until Monday’s House State Affairs meeting.

 Oliveira said that whether legislators agree with the federal Plyler vs. Doe law or not “it’s the law of the land.” HB 12 would also violate the Texas Constitution he said, which guarantees every Texas child an education. By yanking state funding, HB 12 would decimate communities. “It would mean that my school district in Brownsville would lose $400 million of its $500 million budget,” he says. “Not only is the bill unconstitutional – it doesn’t make any sense to make teachers into immigration agents.”

A related immigration bill HB 183— which requires police officers to verify immigration status of an arrested person— was passed out of committee