Despite campaigning on cracking down on illegal immigration, Texas House Republicans just advanced a measure to provide illegal aliens taken into custody with welfare benefits. Unanimously.
On Thursday, the House voted on and approved House Bill 888 by State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R–Odessa) by a vote of 94-46.
What HB 888 originally sought to do was provide law enforcement tools to combat illegal immigration. Specifically, the legislation was ostensibly filed to address a problem whereby smugglers use illegal alien children as human shields to protect themselves from deportation and prosecution, exploiting U.S. immigration policy. Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen detailed the problem at a congressional hearing this past March.
“Over the past five years, we have seen a 620% increase in families, or those posing as families, apprehended at the border,” said Nielsen.
“Of great concern to me is that the children are being used as pawns to get into our country. We have encountered recycling rings, where innocent young people are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. As a nation, we simply cannot stand for this.”
As filed, the bill aimed to give Texas law enforcement the ability to combat illegal immigration, smuggling, and exploitation by making it a criminal offense for a person “with intent to deceive, knowingly misrepresenting a child as a family member to a peace officer or federal special investigator at a port of entry.”
The bill was referred to the House State Affairs Committee where it passed unanimously and then to the Calendars Committee where it was placed for second reading on the calendar for April 29.
Due to delays in the Texas House, the bill wasn’t considered on the floor until two days later, May 1. When it was, Landgraf quietly accepted an amendment authored by two Democrats watering down the legislation.
Considered on third reading on May 2, State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) sought to undo the damage done by Democrats the previous day and offered an amendment undoing the Democrat-initiated amendment. Middleton gained the support of 15 other Republicans, but was defeated by Landgraf and other Republicans and Democrats.
Meanwhile, Landgraf was struggling to explain his bill under intense debate from border Democrats, including State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg.
Their conversation ultimately resulted in Landgraf accepting an amendment by Canales—to which no lawmaker objected or asked for a record vote—that grants welfare benefits to illegal aliens.
The amendment adds another section to the bill that reads as follows:
“AUTOMATIC PROVISION OF MEDICAID BENEFITS. To the extent permitted by federal law and regardless of the nationality of the child, the commission shall ensure a child who is used in the commission of an offense under Section 37.082, Penal Code, is provided Medicaid benefits.”
“Beyond disgusted” were words one observer used to describe the incident.
***UPDATE: Despite murmurs from lawmakers that the vote would be reconsidered, no motion was made prior to the Texas House recessing until 9 a.m. Friday morning.
Citizens wishing to contact their lawmaker can do so by calling the Texas Capitol switchboard at (512)-463-4630.***