Immigration Reform
Immigrants to the U.S. watch President Barack Obama's national address on his executive actions on immigration in Phoenix, Nov. 20, 2014. Texas is considering a bill to allow it to join other states in enforcing federal immigration laws. Reuters

The Texas state Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow the state to join others in enforcing federal immigration laws along the Mexico border. But even if the Texas House and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott approve the legislation, it is unlikely to be enacted, observers say, because a multistate agreement would need approval from the U.S. Congress.

The state Senate bill was authored by Republicans who claimed the federal government is ineffective in combating illegal immigration. “These are criminals that the federal government is not enforcing the law against," said Texas state Sen. Bob Hall, a Republican from Edgewood, the Houston Chronicle reported. “The federal government is not enforcing law on criminals. They are letting them go.”

The vote on the controversial bill was 20-11, along party lines, with a final vote scheduled for Thursday. Democrats voiced concerns that the measure was unconstitutional. Democrats also disagreed with language in the bill that referred to undocumented people as “illegal aliens.”

“It is not the responsibility of this state to enforce federal laws,” Texas state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Houston, told the Dallas Morning News. “I have questions on whether this is even constitutional.”

Hall said the bill would improve the security of Texas and other states “by giving our government the tools to stop criminals from moving into and operating in Texas,” the Morning News reported. He said he was prompted to write the bill because the federal government and Congress “have failed us in securing our border.”

“We hear of story after story of brutal crimes committed by illegal alien criminals” who “are caught and released, and caught and released,” Hall said.

In a separate bill, the state Senate also tentatively approved a study on how much illegal immigrants living in Texas cost the state. That vote also passed 20-11, along party lines.