Bud Kennedy

Taco vendor’s death shows flaws in Texas immigration law

State Rep. Ramón Romero, right, confronts City Councilman Carlos Flores asking when the council will take a position on Senate Bill 4. Both spoke at the monthly public Chorizo & Menudo Breakfast at Nuevo León restaurant.
State Rep. Ramón Romero, right, confronts City Councilman Carlos Flores asking when the council will take a position on Senate Bill 4. Both spoke at the monthly public Chorizo & Menudo Breakfast at Nuevo León restaurant. bud@star-telegram.com

By about 2035, Fort Worth will be mostly Hispanic.

The question is how today’s leaders see that future, and how they want to be remembered.

If they see a new generation of executives and decision-makers, today’s leaders can make decisions that will preserve Fort Worth’s success and growth.

If they simply go along with a Lubbock state senator’s harsh new Texas Senate Bill 4 immigration law, today’s leaders will be remembered for not bucking the Legislature or Washington.

Three Fort Worth City Council members have spoken out against the new law, which allows any law officer to investigate federal immigration status. But the council is far from joining other cities’ federal lawsuit, Councilman Carlos Flores said Saturday.

“The reality is, this takes five votes,” Flores told a decidedly anti-SB 4 crowd Saturday at the public Chorizo & Menudo breakfast community gathering at an Ellis Avenue restaurant.

“Where we are right now is — those five votes do not exist.”

Flores said he has asked for a discussion of the law at the Aug. 1 council meeting. Fort Worth is the only large city in Texas that has not joined the lawsuit, now awaiting a preliminary ruling in a San Antonio federal court.

The law was promoted as a “sanctuary city” measure preventing city or county jails from releasing anyone also sought by federal immigration officials. The author, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, described it as recently as two weeks ago as targeting “those found guilty of serious crimes, such as sexual assault and burglary.”

But the law was amended during House debate to allow police to investigate the legal residency of anyone detained at all, excluding a crime victim, complainant or witness.

Even if you think that sounds fine, lawyers challenging Senate Bill 4 point to an ominous section that allows the Texas attorney general — a political official — to sue and punish local officials who “endorse” an opposing view.

This is the kind of hatred unleashed on the state of Texas.

Dallas Democrat Domingo García

Should Attorney General Ken Paxton, himself free on $35,000 bond awaiting a criminal fraud trial, be in court fining or removing officials over dissent?

That doesn’t sound legal.

And as supporters of Senate Bill 4 like to say, what part of “illegal” don’t you understand?

The law’s local opponents from United Fort Worth won support Saturday from a cousin of heroic taco vendor Jose M. Ontiveros, 58, a 25-year Fort Worth homeowner and businessman shot and killed July 1 trying to stop a robbery in a Mansfield Highway parking lot where he was selling tacos.

One of the suspects told police teens targeted Hispanics “because they’ve got money and they don’t call the police.” (That’s exactly why Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald and Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, among others, opposed the new law as damaging for criminal law enforcement.)

A United Fort Worth spokeswoman said organizers hope to meet with the entire Ontiveros family soon.

Councilman Carlos Flores said he has asked for an Aug. 1 discussion on joining other cities’ lawsuit against Senate Bill 4.

Dallas Democrat Domingo García, a lawyer and breakfast co-sponsor, also noted a Colleyville Republican’s threat on Twitter to call federal immigration officials about the event.

Former Colleyville Mayor Pro Tem Chris Putnam wrote on Twitter he would “call ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to let them know. … Blog other meet times/locations so we can help enforce the law.”

“This is exactly the kind of racial profiling they said wouldn’t happen,” García said.

“These are Fort Worth citizens here. This is the kind of hatred unleashed on the state of Texas.”

That’s why this is becoming a much more complicated decision for City Hall.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Video from the House's Chief of Staff shows the scuffle that broke out on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on May 29. Protesters gathered inside the Texas State Capitol in protest of SB4, legislation that could ban sanctuary cities.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments