Today was the first day to file bills for the 2011 legislative session and State Representative Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) slept on the floor outside the Chief Clerk's office for two days to ensure she would be first in line.
Riddle's House Bill 17 is similar to Arizona's controversial Senate Bill 1070, which the New York Times reported as "the strictest immigration measure in generations". HB17 would add a new offense to the Texas Penal Code called "Criminal Trespass by an Illegal Alien." The offense would make it a state crime for foreign citizens to be in the US without proper documentation, and would grant broad powers to state and local police officers to arrest people they suspect of violating the statute.
State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) also filed an immigration bill modeled on Arizona's get-tough approach. Political observers say it would not be surprising to see ten to fifteen such bills filed within the next two weeks.
Riddle has also attracted controversy for her unsubstantiated anchor baby claim that the FBI was investigating the possibility that Islamic extremists were having babies in the US to gain them American citizenship, and then raising them to be terrorists.
KUT's Ben Philpott talked to Riddle today by telephone.
Ben Philpott: You have filed similar immigration bills in the past. What is different this time around?
Debbie Riddle: What is different this time is the people. On November 2nd, the people got out with a clarion call saying, "Look, we're tired of political correctness. We want it to stop. We're tired of business as usual. We're demanding it stop. We want our borders secure. We're not asking. We're demanding. We want common sense." This is what they're saying. I believe that whether you're Republican or Democrat, anyone who does not listen to what the people are saying regarding these issues, they ignore them to their peril.
In a sense I was country before country was cool because the bills I had filed, like [voter ID] as well my other [bill on] illegal immigration, I did that last session. Now I think that the people of Texas have made a clarion call, and their voice is being heard.
Philpott: I assume you've talked to other members of the House, and does it seem like this is the session where this kind of work will get done?
Riddle: I believe so. I believe with all my heart that because of the people, because of the fact that they have said, "Enough is enough," that the members, Republican and Democrat are going to be forced to say, "Okay, we're here for a reason and we need to get about the business of the people."
Philpott: You were in the House back in 2003 when you had a really large lead over Democrats as well. This recent election gave you another 10 or 11 seats above what you had then. How do you see that framing this upcoming legislative session?
Riddle: I think it's definitely a tremendous advantage. It's a whole lot better that way than the opposite. But I still believe that Republican or Democrat, we cannot continue with business as usual. You know, political correctness. That happens to some degree in both parties, and that kind of nonsense is going to have to stop. And I think that it will stop.
Philpott: What other bill filings can we expect from your office?
Riddle: Voter photo ID I think is absolutely critical. We must maintain the integrity, and keep the integrity to be able to ensure the integrity of our ballot box. If we don't do that, then we have just caved in and lost it all. People have got to feel sure that when they go vote, that their voice is being heard. And all of this ballot fraud and voter fraud and all that, we have got to do what is necessary to put the brakes on that.
What are your thoughts on Debbie Riddle's bills? Let us know in the comments section below!