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Juan Chuy Hinojosa, a Democratic senator from the fertile South Texas region known as the Valley, spoke against the bill. But the bill, he warned, could become an excuse for the wholesale expulsion of undocumented immigrants who had committed no crimes. He and his father were American citizens, but his mother was undocumented. Hinojosa tried to find a middle ground during the debate. If you got caught committing a burglary—hell, yeah, you ought to be detained. Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE began a national dragnet that ostensibly targeted undocumented criminals and violent offenders.

Undocumented bystanders were also picked up. Fifty-one people were seized in Austin, fewer than half of whom were criminals—a lower proportion than in any other city in the country—leading residents to believe that the city had been singled out. Many Mexican-Americans in Texas support stricter enforcement of immigration laws. Hinojosa said that it makes no sense to allow undocumented people into the country, let them go wherever they want, and then conduct raids to root them out.

In session after session, the Texas legislature has sought to impose strict rules on voter identification, with the putative goal of preventing election fraud. A law required voters to present a U.

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The same law excluded federal and state government I. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The appeals court sent the case back to Judge Ramos, asking her to determine if the law was intentionally discriminatory. The question of voter fraud became a national issue after the Presidential election.

Gregg Phillips, a former official of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, gave Trump the false idea that he would have won the popular vote if illegal votes were discounted. Phillips, the founder of a group called VoteStand, tweeted that three million unqualified voters had cast ballots in the election. Trump soon demanded a widespread investigation into voter fraud.

She had lived in the U. She assumed that she could also vote, and had done so previously, in and The local prosecutor decided to make an example of her, and she was sentenced to eight years in prison.

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When she gets out, she may be deported to Mexico. Evan Smith, of the Texas Tribune, has closely followed thirteen legislative sessions. He noted that, even as Dan Patrick and his Republican allies slashed government services, they allocated eight hundred million dollars for border security. In , the Anglo population in Texas became a minority. The last majority-Anglo high-school class in Texas graduated in There will never be another.

Texas leads the nation in Latino population growth. Latinos account for more than half the 2. Every Democrat in Texas believes that, if Latinos voted at the same rate in Texas as they do in California, the state would already be blue. It would also overturn any local antidiscrimination ordinances that permit transgender citizens to choose which bathroom to use. In , a similar bill was signed into law in North Carolina. In response, musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam cancelled concerts in the state, and sporting associations, including the N.

The bathroom bill was drafted after the superintendent of schools in Fort Worth announced, in April, , that transgender students could henceforth use the rest room or the locker room that corresponded to their gender identity. This was in accordance with federal guidelines. The business community in Texas fiercely opposed S. PolitiFact determined that this figure was hyperbolic.

A month after the Texas legislature began the session, the Super Bowl was held in Houston, and the National Football League intimated that, were S. Governor Abbott, who had been keeping his head down as the legislature debated the issue, told the N. Bathrooms have been an issue in Texas before. It was actually a rather jolly moment. The debate over S. In Austin, the bill was being sold as a way to protect women against sexual predators who might pose as transgender—a problem that scarcely exists.

Laws already on the books protect women from being accosted or spied on. The sponsors of the bill claimed that S.

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The only remedy for trans people would be to change their birth certificates, a costly and time-consuming process. The bill proposed fining schools and state agencies up to ten thousand five hundred dollars per day for violations. Even in the Texas Senate, there were doubts about the need for such a bill.

Four retirees representing Buffalo Soldiers—the black cavalrymen who made their mark in the Indian Wars—had come to present the state colors. A tall man wearing a top hat paced about, preparing to recite the letter that William Barret Travis, the lawyer who led the Texian forces at the Alamo, wrote during the battle. A member proposed that the breakfast taco become the official state breakfast item. I met Straus in his office. He switched on a closed-circuit TV to watch a press conference by a new group of a dozen cultural conservatives, the Texas Freedom Caucus, which is led by Matt Schaefer, a state representative from Tyler, in East Texas.

What distinguished this group was that the members were all vociferously anti-Straus. We moved to the dining room, which had Audubon bird prints on the wall. Straus comes from a longtime Republican family in San Antonio. One of his ancestors founded the L. Frank Saddlery Company, which made saddles, harnesses, and whips.

Frank gear on their way to fight in the Spanish-American War. When Joe Straus is not in Austin, he is an executive in the insurance and investment business.

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During that period, Straus served in the Commerce Department. In campaigns, his opponents have mentioned his religion, to little effect. This is his fifth term as speaker, which ties the record. Joe Straus is so much tougher than he appears.

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His speakership has focussed on providing the workforce and the infrastructure that Texas businesses need, by protecting public education, building roads, establishing more top-tier universities, and expanding job training. Perhaps his biggest victory was in in the middle of a devastating drought, he ushered through a two-billion-dollar revolving loan fund for state water projects. Although Democrats and non-Tea Party Republicans alike see Straus as a brake on the controversial cultural agenda being pushed by Abbott and Patrick, he worries that his supporters have unreasonable expectations.

Sometimes he thinks that his moderation, along with the relative centrism of the Texas House, is being used as a foil for the Senate radicals. Before the session began, Straus spoke out against the bathroom bill. He frequently urges business leaders to remain firm in their opposition to such legislation. He had been taking testosterone supplements as he transitioned to male, and he had won fifty-six matches in a row.

In February, the Trump Administration withdrew the protections that President Obama had instituted for transgender students in public schools. On March 6th, the U. That left the issue up to individual states, at least for now. Dan Patrick said that the Texas bill would be a model for the rest of the nation. On March 7th, the bill had its first public hearing before the State Affairs Committee.

Transgender Texans, along with their families, came to the capitol to speak, as did preachers, business leaders, and moral crusaders of all types. More than four hundred people signed up to testify at the hearing. Dana Hodges, the state director of a right-wing Christian organization called Concerned Women for America, was the first to testify in favor of the bill.

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She held up a plastic coat hook that, she said, was embedded with the kind of miniature camera that had been used to spy on her. Under questioning, she acknowledged that a non-transgender man had hidden the camera inside her stall, and that he had been punished under existing laws. Kolkhorst also conceded that she knew of no crimes committed in Texas bathrooms which had been attributed to transgender people. But her intent, she said, was to prevent nefarious people from taking advantage of inclusive bathroom policies.

Crimes against transgender people, meanwhile, are routine; according to Texas Monthly , a quarter of all transgender Texans have been physically assaulted. On March 30th, the North Carolina legislators, assailed on many fronts, partially repealed their bill. In Austin, the vast majority of witnesses spoke against the bathroom bill. One of them was Colt Keo-Meier, a transgender psychologist, who is currently enrolled in medical school at the University of Texas at Galveston.

He wore a white lab coat, and a stethoscope around his neck.


I have not once seen any genitalia. A woman in a short-sleeved black dress identified herself as Jess Herbst, the mayor of New Hope, a tiny town north of Dallas, in a firmly Republican section of the state. A few weeks earlier, Mayor Herbst had written to her constituents to tell them that she was taking hormone-replacement therapy and transitioning to female. She had received overwhelming support, she told the committee. The testimony continued until nearly five in the morning. The committee voted to support the bill, 8—1.

On the evening of April 6th, I went to the capitol to watch the legislature struggle to fulfill its mandatory duty to pass a budget. House members had been at it all day, and, yet again, the discussion would go on until the early morning. The air-conditioning was merciless; one of the members showed me the long johns poking out from under his shirt cuffs.

I saw 5-Hour Energy shots arrayed on some desks. Desperation suffuses the chamber on Budget Night—the last stand for bills that have not been funded. The trick is that, in order to get the money for your legislation, you have to take it from somewhere else.