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Texas lawmakers scuffle after state rep calls ICE on protesters

By Mike Bambach
Texas lawmakers scuffle after state rep calls ICE on protesters
Texas lawmakers scuffled on the floor of the state House of Representatives on Monday after Rep. Matt Rinaldi called immigration authorities on protesters. Photo by LoneStarMike/Wikipedia

May 29 (UPI) -- Lawmakers scuffled on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on Monday after one called immigration authorities on protesters.

Matt Rinaldi, a Republican state representative from Irving, called Immigration and Customs Enforcement while hundreds of people protested Senate Bill 4, the controversial Texas legislation that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law.

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It bans sanctuary cities, allows police to ask for the immigration status of anyone they detain and threatens sheriffs with jail time if they don't cooperate with federal authorities.

The demonstrators disrupted the last day of the state legislature's regular session and Rinaldi said he called ICE because he didn't know how to handle the large protest.

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"A lot of people had signs that said, 'We are illegal and here to stay,'" he told the Texas Tribune. "And we called law enforcement trying to incentivize them to leave the House. They were disrupting. They were breaking the law."

His actions enraged Democratic legislators.

"We were just on the floor talking about the SB4 protests, and Matt Rinaldi came up to us and made it a point to say, 'I called [ICE] on all of them,'" said Philip Cortez, a Democrat state representative from San Antonio. "And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected."

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Video shows lawmakers scuffling.

Some of the language between the two sides apparently turned threatening.

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Rinaldi said on Facebook that Poncho Nevárez, a Democrat state representative from South Texas, threatened to kill him.

Meanwhile, Rinaldi threatened to "put a bullet in one of my colleagues' heads," Justin Rodriguez, a Democratic representative from San Antonio, said at a news conference.

House Speaker Joe Straus chastised both parties.

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"There's no excuse for members making insensitive and disparaging remarks on the floor of the Texas House," he said in a statement.

The battle over sanctuary cities isn't over.

In April, a federal judge issued an injunction against President Donald Trump's executive order withholding billions of dollars in federal financial assistance from sanctuary cities.

Legal challenges to the new Texas law are expected.

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