Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sanctuary bill's demise: "strategic victory" for Perry

One of the nearly-completed legislative session's most stubborn zombies may have finally had a stake driven through its heart.

Despite Gov. Rick Perry's renewed call for its passage, legislation banning "sanctuary cities" appeared dead in the Senate, where 12 Democrats pledged to block consideration of the bill until past Wednesday's midnight deadline for House bills.

The legislation, passed by the House, would have banned local governments from creating "sanctuaries' for illegal immigrants by prohibiting law enforcement officers from inquiring into the immigration status of individuals they detain. Perry, who accused Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White of turning Houston into a sanctuary city during his tenure as mayor, made passage of the legislation one of his priorities.

On Wednesday, Perry said he would leave the issue to the Legislature but added, "it's a very important piece of legislation" that "people in the state of Texas want to see addressed."

House Bill 12 has been fought by Democrats, who say it will lead to racial profiling by police of Hispanics. They also point out that many police chiefs testified against the bill, saying it would take time away from local law enforcement duties to fill in as federal immigration officers. ...

Wednesday evening, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he hoped the bill would be revived.

"I don't think we're ready to give up," he said. "All of the governor's other emergency measures have passed but this one."

But before we celebrate, let's treat ourselves to some of the most delicious spin ever written, courtesy Mark Jones at the Baker Institute for Public Policy:

(Governor Rick) Perry will receive credit from the Republican Party’s conservative base for prioritizing legislative efforts to end the presence of sanctuary cities in Texas. However, by not having to sign the bill into law, Perry will not incur the wrath of the large proportion of Hispanic voters who view such legislation as discriminatory — nor will he provide Democrats with an issue around which they could possibly mobilize (i.e. increase) Hispanic voter participation in 2012 (both at the state level in Texas’ county, state legislative and congressional elections and nationally in the event of a Perry presidential candidacy).

Last year, Perry carefully walked a tightrope in regard to his position on Arizona immigration reform legislation (SB 1070). He was very supportive of the Arizona legislation (thereby not alienating conservatives) but also proclaimed that it was not right for Texas (thereby not antagonizing or threatening Texas Hispanics). With the demise of HB 12 this past Wednesday, Perry has once again displayed his acrobatic abilities by strongly supporting legislation to prohibit the presence of sanctuary cities in Texas while at the same time avoiding having to sign that same legislation into law.

That crafty governor; he won by losing. If you blinked, you missed it: Rick Perry just three-dimensional checkmated the Democrats and flummoxed the TeaBaggers in one incredible political jiu-jitsu backflip.

Some people would call that 'considerable political acumen'.

With considerable political acumen, Perry has managed to promote the agenda of the conservative wing of the Republican Party without going so far as to either significantly diminish his support among Hispanics (recall that Perry garnered 38% of the Hispanic vote in 2010) or give Hispanics an issue around which to mobilize against either him or other Texas Republicans in 2012.

Why, the governor of Texas is such a stinkin' genius he ought to run for Prezdent. And maybe Jones could be his campaign manager.

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