A Democrat committee chair in the Republican-controlled Texas House is trying to implement a “woke” speech code for members of her committee.

During the first meeting of the House County Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Democrat State Rep. Victoria Neave (Dallas), the chairman of the committee, admonished Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington) for using the term “illegal immigrants” when asking a question of a representative of the Texas Demographic Center.

Dr. Monica Cruz, a senior research associate at the Texas Demographic Center, was presenting statistics regarding the state’s rate of population growth over the last few years when Tinderholt asked if the reported numbers “include illegal immigrants that come across.” Before Cruz could answer, Neave interjected.

“Before you answer, so I—we can have a conversation offline—but that term, ‘illegal immigrants,’ is just, I want to keep, make sure that … ,” said Neave.

“Well, they’re here illegally,” Tinderholt cut in.

“We’re not going to get into … ,” Neave stammered.

“And they are immigrants to America,” Tinderholt continued. “I didn’t say that to bring up an argument or a discussion.”

“No, I know,” Neave acknowledged, “But we’re trying to have a start off on the right foot here.”

“I asked a very passive question, Chairwoman,” Tinderholt said.

Neave tried to object, but Tinderholt continued.

“No, no, wait, wait, wait. That’s a simple term, and it’s legal, and it’s ethical. And it wasn’t meant to stir anything up, and I’m getting frustrated. … They’re illegal immigrants, and I just asked a simple question. Are they—the people that are counted on there—are they Texans? … The reason I want to know is, is the population increasing due to people moving from other states [or] coming from Mexico? That’s a better way to ask it. Do you know?”

Cruz explained that the numbers she was reporting were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, which doesn’t ask respondents about their citizenship status.

After Cruz finished speaking, Neave thanked her and said, “I’m going to ask the members to keep their remarks on … we’re going to try to not have politicized discussions right now, especially at our first meeting.”

“I hear you, and I agree,” replied Tinderholt. “But I’m not going to have anyone dictate the terms I use or don’t use.”

Neave said, “Now, we will have a discussion afterwards, but I’m—we’re calling order in this meeting.”

After the meeting, Tinderholt tweeted a video clip of the exchange.

At the beginning of the current legislative session, Tinderholt mounted an unsuccessful challenge to State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) for the position of House speaker, promising to appoint only Republicans as committee chairs if elected. Phelan, however, maintains that awarding committee chairs to members of the minority party fosters collaboration and bipartisanship.

After defeating Tinderholt by a vote of 145-3, Phelan prohibited a vote on a rule that would have required him to appoint Republicans as committee chairs. He also denied members the opportunity to vote on a rule that would have barred committee chairs from enforcing a speech code, giving them tacit approval to do just that.

Neave is one of nine Democrats appointed by Phelan to chair a committee in the Texas House. She was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2017 and was sued for owing more than $50,000 in property taxes in 2019. In 2021 she fled Austin with the majority of her Democrat colleagues to camp out in Washington, D.C., for six weeks in an effort to block election integrity legislation.

Darrell Frost

Since graduating from Hillsdale College, Darrell has held key roles in winning political campaigns, managed a state legislator's Capitol office, and taught at a classical charter school. He enjoys participating in outdoor activities, playing the harmonica, and learning about the latest scientific developments.