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Texas Republicans Ask AG For Immigration Opinion

AUSTIN (AP) – Two Republican state lawmakers have asked the Texas attorney general how far the state can go in dealing with illegal immigration, from yanking licenses for businesses to banning cities from enacting “sanctuary” ordinances.

On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Corte of San Antonio and Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston asked Attorney General Greg Abbott for a legal opinion on the issues, hinting at a possible flare-up over immigration issues in the 2009 legislative session, which begins in January.

“I really believe that the citizenry are asking for something to be done,” said Corte, who is chairman of the House Republicans.

The letters ask Abbott if Texas could legally yank the business license of employers who hire illegal workers – similar to a measure in Arizona – and if the state can ban cities from enacting “sanctuary” ordinances that prohibit city workers, including police, from enforcing immigration laws.

Several cities already encourage their police not to focus on the immigration status of witnesses and victims, and some legislators want to ban such practices.

Last year, several Republican lawmakers proposed a slew of anti-immigration bills, but nearly all of them failed after the attorney general said they would violate the Constitution or overstep federal authority. House leaders had asked Abbott to review all the proposals after they were filed.

Corte said it would be nice to know before the 2009 legislative session what authority Texas has to enforce immigration laws.

“I’d hate for us to spend a bunch of time debating something we don’t have clarity on,” he said. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said immigration policy should be left to the federal government.

“Let’s face facts,” Shapleigh said. “The U.S. needs a vibrant labor force in technology, health services, construction and agriculture. Immigrants have shouldered that burden for years.”

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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