Rafael Anchia stood at the front mike in the Texas House of Representatives, with several of his Democratic colleagues behind him, and glanced out at his audience of mostly Republican colleagues.

"It's been very hard for me to look at any of you," Anchia said, "because I'm filled with a lot of sadness."

The subject before the House was passage of a "Sanctuary Cities" bill – Senate Bill 4 -- that could levy punishment against local officials who are determined to be insufficiently cooperative with federal immigration authorities.

Many children and grandchildren of immigrants – particularly those from nearby Mexico – regard the increasingly harsh attitude toward immigrants as discriminatory.

And, most minority members of the Texas Legislature who are Democrats – which is almost all of them – view two other subjects as thinly disguised efforts to hold down the participation of people of color in Texas government:

• The creative redistricting by Republicans of legislative and congressional districts to minimize the clout of minority voters;

• Republican-driven requirements that voters present an authorized photo identification card in order to vote.

Texas districting discrimination and restrictive photo ID requirements are each being challenged in separate federal cases as purposely designed by Republican lawmakers to suppress voting by Hispanics and African-Americans, who usually vote for Democrats.

And so far, the federal judges have mostly agreed with the arguments of the minority plaintiffs.

If the courts continue to side with the minorities, Texas might once again be required to have any proposed changes in election laws or districts "pre-cleared" that they are not racially discriminatory before they can take effect.

Under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, Texas had been among several states and areas with histories of racially discriminatory election behavior that had to get pre-clearance, from either the Department of Justice, or a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C.

But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the evidence of the behavior that had caused the pre-clearance to be invoked was out of date. And so Texas officials no longer had to get federal pre-clearance before election law changes could take effect.

However, if Texas should be found to have had racially discriminatory election practices since the 2013 court decision (Shelby County v. Holder), Section 2 of the rights act could re-impose the pre-clearance requirement.

Republican Donald Trump's surprise victory in last year's presidential election, and subsequent efforts to bar Muslim immigrants, and to step up deportation of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, has greatly increased the fear level.

Undocumented immigrants, and their families, worry that they could be deported – despite the fact that their children born in the United States are automatically American citizens.

The state effort to crack down on sanctuary cities, and counties – SB 4 --  had been declared an emergency by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. That designation gave it fast-track consideration, and the Senate passed it in February.

For Anchia, seeing dozens of amendments proposed by Democrats repeatedly go down by lopsided, party-line votes, it was personal. His parents were immigrants – dad Julio from Spain, at age 19, and mom Edume from Mexico, at 15.

They met in Miami, and after a long courtship, were married. Rafael was born and graduated from high school in Miami.

He got his bachelor's degree at Southern Methodist University, and then a law degree from Tulane University, in New Orleans – both on scholarships.

He later returned to Dallas. After two terms on the Dallas school board, the bright and collegial Anchia was unopposed in 2004 for West Dallas House District 103, from which Democratic Rep. Steve Wolens was retiring after 24 years.

Anchia, 48, ((DOB 9/26/68)) now in his 13th year in the House, has never had a Republican or Democratic opponent. In three elections, a token Libertarian has run (or perhaps, also-run).

If the Republican House members heard the heartfelt pleas from the Democrats, they didn't honor them. They voted down virtually every amendment of substance – most by close to the 94-53 vote by which the House finally passed the bill.

It was returned to the Senate, which must decide whether to accept the minimal House changes and pass it on to the governor, or tinker with it further in a House-Senate conference committee.

Abbott's ready, said spokesman John Wittman after final House passage.

"Governor Abbott applauds the Texas House for voting to ban sanctuary cities, and he looks forward to signing the final bill into law," said spokesman John Wittman.

Meanwhile, Anchia will try to re-channel his sadness, by cheering on Sanctuary City opponents as they turn to what they hope will be a more receptive audience: the federal courts.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location