|Texas state Rep. Gene Wu, center, urged his peers to vote against the anti-immigrant measure.|
TEXAS STATE state Representative Gene Wu was visibly emotional as he spoke against Senate Bill 4, a controversial immigration enforcement bill before the Texas House of Representatives.
"This topic is painful for me," said Wu, who represents a district in Houston. "I am an immigrant. My parents are immigrants. I represent a district filled with immigrants."
In his speech last week he struggled to control his emotions as the Democrat spoke about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted the immigration of Chinese immigrants into the U.S. Wu called attention to the incarceration of Japanese/Americans during World War II. The video of his speech went viral.
SB4 would allow law enforcement officials to ask about a detainee’s immigration status. Police chiefs and sheriffs could face criminal charges if they don't help the federal government enforce immigration laws.
After 16 hours of debate, the bill passed at 3 a.m. April 30. It still faces several hurdles before it becomes law.
"(The bill) will tell people, 'If you are stopped by the police, they will ask you about immigration status, even if you're trying to help, and you will be deported,'" Wu says.
Wu, who represents the diverse neighborhoods of southwest Houston, came from China with his family when he was just 5-years old.Wu wasn't alone in opposing the bill, Other representatives who are immigrants or have immigrants in their family spoke out against the measure. Many law enforcement officials were against it because they knew they needed to have the trust of the immigrant community in order to fight against crime.
In the end, the vote wasn't even close. The House of Reprsentatives voted for the bill, 93-54. The Texas Senate passed the proposed law in February. It now goes to committee before going to Gov. Greg Abbott.
In addition to mandating police to detain civilians who might be undocumented immigrants, the bill also prohibits Texas cities from passing bills that would curtail SB4's provisions. Police would be required to comply with federal requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants, making officers an extension of ICE. At its core, SB4 targets "sanctuary city" and profiles people who look like an immigrant.
It seems unlikely that Republican Gov. Abbott will veto SB4 given his past statements about defunding sanctuary cities.
“Many members on the floor came up and told me, ‘We know this is wrong... but we’re going to do it anyway. Because we need to stay elected,'” said Wu.