State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) has previously been exposed for killing meaningful illegal immigration reforms while simultaneously allowing himself and his allies to escape the responsibility. However, as chairman of the powerful House State Affairs committee, Cook has not only been a difficult barrier for conservative reformers in the area of illegal immigration, he has actually worked to advance the ball for those who favor amnesty and government benefits for illegal aliens.
Consider last session, when State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) authored HB 3206, which would have given provisional drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. The bill was referred to Cook’s State Affairs Committee and he passed it out 8-1.
During the same session, HB 180 by State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) — banning in-state tuition for illegal immigrants — was also referred to Cook’s committee. Unsurprisingly, however, Cook did not give it a hearing. Alonzo’s “drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens” bill died in Calendars, but Cook worked with Alonzo on several futile attempts to amend the unpopular legislation on to other bills.
Whether due to campaign contributions from beneficiaries of illegal immigration or simply to his consistent opposition to conservatism, Cook actually decided to pick up the “drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens” bill himself this session.
Cook authored HB 4063, duplicitously claiming that giving drivers’ permits to illegal aliens would make Texas roadways safer by allowing the aliens to get insurance. However an interim study conducted by Cook’s own committee concluded they already were able to do so, making the bill totally unnecessary.
There were other measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration in the 84th session. HB 4117 by Rep. Fallon (R-Frisco), banning sanctuary cities, died in State Affairs due to Cook’s opposition. Similarly, an initiative to ban in-state tuition for illegal aliens (HB 2912 by Fallon and Keough) was referred to Cook’s committee, where it did not receive a hearing.
Another initiative, HB 592 by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), would have established a mechanism for local law enforcement to participate in the Federal “Secure Communities” program, a deportation mechanism that prioritizes illegal immigrant criminals based on the violence and severity of their crimes. Of course, that bill was sent to State Affairs, where Cook killed it.
Rep. Byron Cook takes a position on illegal immigration issues that is totally out of step with conservatives and the Republican Party. His liberal position on the issue is only magnified by the power of his chairmanship, making Cook the greatest obstacle in Texas to meaningful reform.
As long as Byron Cook and the coalition government of Democrats, lobbyists, and liberal Republicans led by House Speaker Joe Straus hold the reins of the lower chamber, conservatives can expect little progress on the issue.