Texas reforms designed to strengthen border security and curb illegal immigration have been harder to pass than they should have been because of one state legislator: State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana).
As chairman of the powerful State Affairs Committee, Cook is often delegated the responsibility in the Texas House of killing the conservative reforms considered anathema to the coalition government of Democrats and liberal Republicans.
Cook kills the conservative bills in his committee so that there can be no vote on them. This allows the other Republicans in the governing coalition to avoid responsibility for their actions come election season.
One reform repeatedly killed by Cook is a ban on “sanctuary cities.”
These are cities – often headed by liberal mayors and city councils – that have adopted policies to protect illegal immigrants in their jurisdiction from being deported. Often, they prohibit local law enforcement entities from cooperating with federal authorities and this allows for a safe haven for illegal immigrants.
Last session, State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) filed HB 4117, which would have banned cities from adopting laws prohibiting governmental entities under their jurisdiction from cooperating with federal authorities to curb illegal immigration. The bill was read and immediately sent to State Affairs, where Cook let it die without a hearing.
Likewise, in 2011, a ban on sanctuary cities was receiving even more attention. The issue was named as an “emergency item” by then-Gov. Rick Perry. A bill addressing the subject, HB 12, was voted out of committee on a 9-3 vote.
However, at that time the Senate could be expected to provide an additional procedural barrier for conservative reforms behind which liberal Republicans in the house could hide. As expected, a Dewhurst-led Senate crippled by the two-thirds rule became the resting place for HB 12, allowing Cook and his committee to appear to have done the right thing by their constituents.
However, they didn’t anticipate how important the issue had become. During a Special Session in 2011, Gov. Perry added sanctuary cities to the call. With no two-thirds rule standing in the way during the special, Senate Republicans responded proactively by passing a bill banning sanctuary cities. Predictably, the bill was referred to State Affairs, where it was never given a hearing.
As the issue heats up in advance of the 2016 election season, Cook will no doubt seek to dodge responsibility for his actions and claim credit when he can, but the record shows that on sanctuary cities, Cook will not let conservative reforms pass.