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A state representative in Texas has proposed an anti-immigration bill that has received national attention. House Bill 1202, authored by Republican state Rep. Debbie Riddle would make tough state punishments for those who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” hire an unauthorized immigrant. Violators could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
The proposed legislation is not very surprising given the anti-immigrant fervor that has swept part of the nation, especially in the border states. The bill has one major exception that has propelled it into the national spotlight. Those who hire undocumented workers would be in violation of the law — UNLESS they are hiring a maid, a lawn caretaker or another house worker. The legislation would protect those who hire unauthorized immigrants “for the purpose of obtaining labor or other work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence.”
Many Republicans in the state House defend the large exception. Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, a Republican, said the exception is a wise one. “With things as they are today, her bill will see a large segment of the Texas population in prison” if it passes without the exception, he said. “When it comes to household employees or yard workers it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers,” Pena said. “It is so common it is overlooked.”
Riddle’s chief of staff, Jon English told the Texas Tribune that the exception was to avoid “stifling the economic engine” in Texas. “It is an admittedly clumsy first attempt to say, ‘We are really focusing on the big businesses,’” English said. Texans shouldn’t be punished for hiring lawn care companies who hire unauthorized immigrants, he said, according to the Texas Tribune’s website.
Leo Berman, a Republican state representative, has filed a number of additional immigration-related bills this legislative session. One proposed bill would make English the official language of Texas, a move that would save millions in printing costs, according to Berman. The law wouldn’t affect schools or ballots, he added. Another proposed bill would place an 8 percent surcharge on all money wired from Texas to Latin America. About $480 million could be collected from money sent to Mexico alone, Berman said. A third bill would require police officers to ask every person they stop what their citizenship status is, similar to the controversial “papers please” law in Arizona.