Heated immigration debate led to Texas lawmakers' scuffle


The House floor of the Texas State Legislature on Monday was disrupted by a heated exchange when State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R., Irving) told his Democratic colleagues that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on protesters at the State Capitol.

The final day of Texas' 85th regular legislative session was interrupted by hundreds of protesters in red who filled the Capitol in opposition to Senate Bill 4, one of this session's most controversial bills.

"He saw the crowd, and he saw illegals", said state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. The law targeting "sanctuary cities" requires that state law enforcement comply with demands from federal immigration authorities and allows local police forces to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain. Rep. Ramon Romero, a Democrat from Fort Worth, said he was standing with fellow Democratic Rep. Cesar Blanco of El Paso when Republican colleague Matt Rinaldi came over and said: "This is BS". "And I asked him, 'These are things that shouldn't happen on the House floor; it's a break in decorum, we shouldn't be doing that'".

Castro said his fears about the bill leading to racial profiling were realized through Rinaldi's actions. "Our first reaction was to say, 'You've got to be kidding me'". "Both were created to incite each other", said Rinaldi.

Rinaldi responded to the allegations in a statement posted on Facebook, claiming he was himself threatened by Nevarez.

Rinaldi told reporters afterward: "They were saying stuff to me".

"I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, 'get me, ' I would shoot him in self defense".

"Let me be clear, this was a personal attack on me as a son of Mexican immigrants", Romero said.

Later, a group of Democratic lawmakers held a press conference to accuse Rinaldi of threatening to "put a bullet in the head" of someone on the House floor during a second near scuffle.

Nevarez tweeted the following in response to Rinaldi's account of the altercation: "He's a liar and hateful man".

Rinaldi also added that he is now under protection from the Texas Department of Public Safety and that several other lawmakers witnessed the incident.

Lawmaker Philip Cortez said the last time he was in a scuffle, pushing and shoving, was when he was growing up on San Antonio's South Side, which he now represents in the Texas House.