Texas Sanctuary City Law Prompts Near Brawl, Alleged Death Threats In State Legislature

Texas lawmakers almost got into a fistfight today, with one Republican warning a Democrat that he would shoot him in self defense if necessary.

Demonstrators showed up in the gallery of the Texas House of Representatives on the last day of the legislative session today, Memorial Day, to protest against Senate Bill 4 (SB4) that prohibits sanctuary cities, i.e., those local jurisdictions which are noncompliant with federal immigration law. Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the measure into law earlier this month.

When Dallas-area Rep. Matt Rinaldi, a Republican, told his Democrat counterparts that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the demonstrators, the pushing and shoving apparently broke out.

“The Democrats were enraged. A shoving match ensued, and later lawmakers accused one another of making violent threats,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

Rinaldi said that one of the opposition party officials allegedly threatened to beat him up in the parking lot, at which point Rinaldi warned his counterpart that he would exercise his Second Amendment rights to protect himself if necessary.

Rinaldi released a statement on Twitter explaining what happened from his point of view, which he says witnesses will back up.

“Today, Representative Pancho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’ Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time, Poncho told me that he would ‘get me on the way to my car.’ I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense.”

Rinaldi added that he is currently receiving police protection after the incident.

“Without audio of the exchange on the Texas House floor, it’s impossible to say who threatened whom. But scuffles in the legislature show how the issue of immigration enforcement can stir passions on both sides,” the Washington Post noted about today’s altercation.

Democrats denied making any threats and that Rinaldi started it by behaving in a disrespectful manner and then allegedly threatening to put a bullet in the head of one of their members.

“Hispanic Democratic lawmakers involved in the altercation said it wasn’t physical but indicated that Rinaldi got into people’s faces and cursed repeatedly,” the Texas Tribune reported.

According to Rep. Nevarez, Matt Rinaldi is “a liar and hateful man,” the Texas Observer reported.

Also from the Inquisitr:

“Rinaldi said he was angry because Democrats in the House were bragging about how great it was and they were inciting them to break the House rules and break Texas law. ‘I took issue with that,’ Rinaldi said,” the Tribune added. “House Democrats involved in the altercation said that wasn’t the case and that they were simply cheering on members of the public who were exercising their First Amendment rights.”

According to Fort Worth Rep. Ramon Romero, Rinaldi was guilty of racial profiling everyone in the gallery with his call to ICE.

“The clash put an exclamation point on the rancorous 85th Legislature, which was marked by intense battles between the parties over the sanctuary cities measure and by battles between GOP factions over controversial proposals like the so-called bathroom bill,” the Austin American-Statesman claimed.

The sanctuary city ban, which goes into effect on September 1, is likely to be challenged in court. Moreover, Governor Abbott may call the legislature back into special session because of some unfinished business, so it remains to be seen if the lawmakers involved in today’s heated exchange will cool down.

This is a developing story. Watch this space for updates on the confrontation between GOP Rep. Matt Rinaldi and several Democrats in the Texas House over his call to ICE.

Added: Rep. Nevarez admitted in an interview today that he “shoved [Rinaldi] around a little bit,” The Daily Caller reported.

[Featured Image by Eric Gay/AP Images]