The PJ Tatler

Sanctuary city showdown in Texas (Updates: Shenanigans are afoot)

There are two powerful Perry’s in Texas: Rick the governor and Bob the builder (they’re not related by blood). The former and his Republican Party depend to some extent on the latter for support, as Bob Perry of Perry Construction is among Texas’ most prolific political donors. But as the legislature’s special session winds toward a close, Rick the governor and Bob the builder find themselves on opposite sides of a sticky issue: Sanctuary cities. Gov. Perry made Houston’s status as a sanctuary city a key part of his attack on Democrat Bill White in the 2010 gubernatorial race, and has made cracking down on sanctuary cities one of his legislative priorities this session.  The drug war in Mexico has necessitated greater border security generally, and the federal government has done nothing to help. Both the Texas House and Senate have passed sanctuary city bills, they just haven’t passed each other’s bills, so there’s nothing headed to Gov. Perry’s desk for signature.  So the governor’s priority remains unfulfilled.

Meanwhile, Bob Perry and fellow Texas heavyweight entrepreneur and political donor Charles Butt (CEO of the H.E.B. grocery chain) have come out against any sanctuary city bill. This puts Texas Republicans from Gov. Perry on down in a bit of a bind, caught between the party’s base and Tea Party faction, which wants a sanctuary city bill, and the big donors, who have made it clear that they don’t. The majority of Texans generally favor more stringent border security measures. Business interests generally favor lax security for both labor cost and population reasons: More people equals more commerce. They also argue that increasing border security will alienate the state’s growing Hispanic population, which will be the state’s demographic majority in a few years. The drug war and the possibility of cross-border violence and even terrorism looms in the background. This doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough, but our lax security and the crime climate it creates contributed directly to 9-11, so connecting border security to terrorism isn’t an abstraction. It’s a fact. The murder of David Hartley on Falcon Lake is among the testaments to the reality of life next to a country at civil war.

The clock is running out on the special session, and now there’s scuttlebutt that if the sanctuary city bill doesn’t get through, Gov. Perry will call a second special session to deal with it. If he doesn’t, he will suffer damage with the base, damage that would surely continue into any presidential run he might mount. If he does call a second special session to take on sanctuary cities, he may alienate some of the Republican side’s top donors. Neither he nor the Texas GOP is solely dependent on Bob Perry or Charles Butt, but both would feel some damage at the loss of their donations.

The fact that Gov. Perry, along with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has made such a bill a high priority signals that he will continue fighting for it. The obvious path around that is for the House to pass the Senate’s latest version, giving Gov. Perry the legislative victory and preventing the spectacle of having another special session that focuses sharply on this single issue. But so far, the House under Speaker Joe Straus, hasn’t moved to do that.

So the showdown continues.

Update: Katrina Pierson goes into the House chamber, which ought to be working on any number of items including the sanctuary city bill. But it’s empty. They didn’t start working until this afternoon, and then wasted time congratulating the Dallas Mavericks for winning the NBA title or something. Sheesh.

Update: Well, here’s one take on what happened. Basically, there seems to be a battle over the TSA groping bill, and other bills are being taken hostage in the fight. If that linked report is accurate. That pink building can get more than a little bit murky.

Update: Gov. Perry lays blame for the sanctuary cities bill on state Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock.