AUSTIN (CBSNewsTexas.com) — Texas lawmakers are considering cracking down further on illegal immigration.
On Monday, the House State Affairs Committee held hearings on two bills passed in the Texas Senate last week: SB 4 and SB 11.
During the hearing, Republicans supported the bills and said they will deter illegal immigration, while Democratic lawmakers and other opponents said they don't believe they will help at all.
During a news conference before the hearing, Representative Ana Hernandez said, "As a child, I was undocumented for about eight years so when I see this legislation, I think about my history. We are not for stash houses, but we are not for criminalizing our families either."
At the committee meeting, Republican Representative Ryan Guillen said under SB 4, the state would establish a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for smuggling and operating stash houses. "The crimes of smuggling and operating a stash house are a major challenge to public safety as smugglers not only take advantage of a smuggled individuals but their conduct endangers everyday Texans."
One of Galveston County's constables, Paul Edinburgh of Precinct 2, testified he supports the bills.
He said he arrested a person caught driving five migrants who entered the country illegally. "Border patrol was able to confirm one of them was a wanted child sex predator."
But Kristen Etter of RioGrande Legal Aid said her agency has represented 3,000 people since 2021, and that those arrested for human smuggling don't have any personal connections to the drug cartels. "Do I think that maybe five or several people removed the cartel has somehow been engaged in arranging transportation? Absolutely. Do the people who end up getting arrested for this have any connection to the cartels? Almost universally, no."
The other bill, SB 11 would create a state crime when a migrant illegally enters Texas.
Opponents called it a new version of a "show me your papers" bill and said it will lead to racial profiling.
Supporters denied that and said they want to encourage migrants to go to lawful ports of entry.
Similar bills have been filed by House members and have been referred to committees for consideration.