Texas Immigration Debate Leads to Altercation

(ESPAÑOL) A heated Immigration Debate almost lead to a physical altercation on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on Monday.

A Republican lawmaker threatened to shoot a Hispanic Texas lawmaker after the latter pushed him at the boiling point of a heated debate over legislation being passed in the state.

The tensions flared at the end of the divisive session in Texas in which race was invoked in debates over immigration, voting rights, border security and policing. Among the bills sent to Abbott’s desk are changes to a voter ID law that a federal judge has ruled was intentionally discriminatory. Another was the “Sandra Bland Act,” named for a black woman who died in a Texas jail in 2015 following a confrontational traffic stop with a white state trooper. Bland’s family were disappointed after police accountability measures were removed.

Hundreds of immigrant-rights activists — many of whom were Hispanic — had jammed the state Capitol on the final day before the Texas Legislature adjourned until 2019. Some came from as far as Arizona to protest a “sanctuary city” crackdown that will allow police starting September to ask people during routine stops whether they’re in the U.S. legally.

Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevarez did not deny pushing Rinaldi, who wrote on Facebook that he told Nevarez after being threatened that “I would shoot him in self-defense.” Nevarez said he was “sick of” the attitudes toward Hispanics in the Legislature and was taking a stand.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the “sanctuary ban” known as SB4 this month, has stayed quiet over the skirmish and a spokesman did not return messages Tuesday. Nevarez said he wanted Abbott to come out and publicly say that Rinaldi calling immigration authorities was wrong.

A Democrat hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994, frustrating a party that has seen the state’s Hispanic population boom but hasn’t had its electoral fortunes change. About 43 percent of Texas residents are white, while whites make up the majority of legislators.