Chaos, protests, and threats of violence marked the ending of the 85th Texas legislative session. Emotions reached the boiling point over a statewide ban on sanctuary cities passed by the Texas Legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Illegal immigration and sanctuary cities have become intensely partisan issues, from the local and state level, to Congress and the White House.
But protests were only the start Monday, ahead of Sine Die (session adjournment), when a scuffle between lawmakers on the House floor reportedly ended with one saying, “I will put a bullet in your head.”
The incident involved five lawmakers in particular: Republican Matt Rinaldi of Irving, and Democrats Ramon Romero, Phil Cortez, Cesar Blanco, and Pancho Navarez.
Rinaldi reportedly told the Democratic lawmakers he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after seeing a sign from one protester that explicitly said the protester was in the state illegally.
Romero, Blanco, and Cortez responded with heated retorts. Both sides claim threats of violence were made against them, a shoving match ensued, and more than one witness says Rinaldi told Navarez that he (Rinaldi) would put a bullet in his (Navarez’s) head.
Rinaldi says he responded this way after Navarez implied violence against him in the parking lot. He claims he simply made it clear that if Navarez tried to attack him, he would defend himself.
The story has devolved into mostly finger pointing and both sides making accusations about the other. Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss said in a prepared statement, “There’s no excuse for members making insensitive and disparaging remarks on the floor of the Texas House.”
Clearly, this went a little further than “insensitive and disparaging” remarks as passions over hot-button, partisan issues resulted in threats of deadly violence and nearly a fist fight between lawmakers involved.