When House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) and State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) called a committee hearing on Thursday to discuss sanctuary cities and “undocumented immigrants,” conservatives knew to expect inaction.
Indeed, Cook has repeatedly killed legislation banning sanctuary cities and has spent the past two sessions urging the state to give driver’s permits to illegal aliens. So it was no surprise when Cook politely listened as Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez defended a recent policy adopted by her department, which was criticized by Governor Abbott as a “sanctuary city” policy.
However, the hearing quickly took a turn for the bizarre during testimony from Steve McCraw, the Director of the Department of Public Safety. Cook used the testimony to attack conservatives for a move taken last session to rein-in lawlessness at DPS.
Conservative lawmakers including Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown) sponsored legislation to force DPS to follow the law with regard to the collection of fingerprints from Texans when they apply for or renew a driver’s license. Despite a statute only granting DPS authority to take a thumbprint, in 2014 the agency started illegally taking all ten fingerprints. Lawmakers forced DPS to reverse the policy and to delete the fingerprints illegally taken from millions of Texans.
Despite once voting with conservative lawmakers to rein-in DPS during the session, Cook is now attacking them. In Thursday’s hearing, he suggested that DPS’s inability to illegally collect ten fingerprints from Texas citizens is somehow obstructing immigration enforcement in a bigger way than sanctuary city policies. Cook committed to work to reverse the legislature’s action and to give DPS authority to take all ten fingerprints from Texans if he returns next session.
However that is a big “if.” Byron Cook is facing Corsicana businessman Thomas McNutt in the Republican primary.