In a significant development for the Texas special session, a state Senate committee sent a clear signal on Tuesday that it is unlikely to approve an immigration bill recently passed by the House. This outcome could potentially derail one of the key priorities outlined by the governor for this special session.
House Bill 2, authored by Rep. Bryan Guillen and approved by the House, aimed to increase the minimum sentence for individuals convicted of smuggling people or operating stash houses under state law.
The bill proposed a minimum sentence of 10 years, which could be reduced to five years if the defendant cooperated with law enforcement or if there was a familial relationship between the smuggler and the person being smuggled, as reported by The Texas Tribune.
The House put its foot down, and rather than wait for the Senate to approve those measures, they adjourned session, leaving the Senate with no option but to pass the House version of the immigration bill or let it die.
During Tuesday’s committee meeting, Senator Brian Birdwell, the chair of the Senate Border Security Committee, expressed reservations about HB2, citing “significant challenges,” and stated that his intention was not to vote the bill out of committee.
The committee will convene on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss a substitute version of HB 2, but without the House in session the bill faces an uncertain fate. In response to the committee’s decision, Senate Bill 5, authored by Senator Pete Flores, was sent to the full Senate for consideration. This bill closely resembles House Bill 2 but omits the amendment that would drop the minimum sentence to five years for defendants who are related to the person being smuggled.
In addition the Senate also passed two other immigration-related bills, however, these bills have no chance of becoming law since the House did not pass similar legislation and is not currently in session to consider them, according to The Texas Tribune.