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Texas Lawmaker Threatens to Shoot Colleague Over Immigration Dispute

More than 1,000 immigrant rights supporters were at the Texas Capitol on Monday protesting the new anti-“sanctuary cities” law, which also allows police to ask people about their immigration status even when stopped for something minor like jaywalking.

Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi called U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the protesters and threatened to “put a bullet in the head” of a Democratic colleague.

Texas state Rep. Matt Rinaldi

It was the final day of the regular legislative session. Rep. Ramon Romero, a Democrat from Fort Worth, said he was standing with fellow Democratic Rep. Cesar Blanco of El Paso on the House Floor when Rinaldi came over and said the protesters who were chanting in the gallery were a “disgrace,” Romero told the Texas Observer.

“F**k them, I called ICE,” Rinaldi said, according to Romero.

Romero said that prompted Blanco to tell Rinaldi, of Irving in suburban Dallas, that Italian immigrants “are just like us.”

He said Rinaldi responded, “Yeah, but we love our country.”

“He saw a bunch of people who look Latino, and he assumed they’re undocumented. So how can he say SB 4 won’t lead to racial profiling?” Romero said.

Rinaldi and Blanco began shouting at each other. Other lawmakers separated the two men who were about to fight, according to ABC News.

KVUE tweeted a video:

At a press conference later in the day, a group of Democratic lawmakers said Rinaldi made a comment, in the direction of Democratic Rep. Poncho Nevárez, threatening to “put a bullet in the head” of someone on the House floor during a second near-scuffle.

“There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads,” Rep. Justin Rodriguez told reporters. “That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”

In a Facebook post, Rinaldi said he did call ICE on “several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’” He also said Rep. Ramon Romero physically assaulted him and that Nevárez threatened him on the House floor.

“I made it clear that if [Nevarez] attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense,” wrote Rinaldi.

On Twitter Nevárez responded to Rinaldi’s claim that he threatened him:

Nevarez also said on Twitter that Rinaldi’s behavior is indicative of how Senate Bill 4 actions will “play out”:

Senate Bill 4 is the result of Republican efforts to put Texas in line with the priorities that President Donald Trump has given. Both chambers of the Republican-dominated legislature approved the bill on party-line votes and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law on May 7. It aims to punish local authorities that fail to honor requests to turn over suspected undocumented immigrants to ICE agents.

It also allows police to ask people about their immigration status during a lawful detention, even for minor infractions like jaywalking, according to Reuters.

“Texas’ new law is reminiscent of a 2010 Arizona ‘show your papers’ measure that allowed police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during routine interactions such as traffic stops. It was eventually struck down in court,” according to the Associated Press.

Democrats have warned that the Texas law could lead to unconstitutional racial profiling. Civil rights groups have promised to fight it in court.

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