* Business interests and law enforcement opposed bill
* Texas legislation less restrictive than Arizona's
By Karen Brooks
AUSTIN, Texas, June 29 Powerful business
interests helped to scuttle proposed immigration restrictions
in Texas on Wednesday, further evidence that Republicans in
some states are facing resistance among their own supporters to
an immigration clampdown.
The "sanctuary cities" bill would have barred cities from
stopping police departments from asking about immigration
status of people who are detained or arrested. It died when the
Texas legislature adjourned without passing it.
Since Arizona enacted sweeping restrictions on immigration
last year and blamed the federal government for failing to pass
national reforms, civil rights activists have feared that the
crackdown would spread across the country.
Many watched Texas closely because it is the nation's
second most populous state, shares a long border with Mexico,
has a rapidly growing Hispanic population, and like Arizona,
Republicans control its legislature and governorship.
The sanctuary cities bill was far less restrictive than the
measure passed in Arizona, and it was championed by Texas
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is considering running for
Political analysts expected it to sail through the
While Republican party infighting and rivalry between the
two chambers of the legislature were factors in its demise,
shocked conservatives and Tea Party supporters blamed "Country
Club" Republicans with close ties to business.
"I don't, for one minute, blame the Democrats for this
one," an angry Mike Openshaw, Texas Tea Party activist, told
Reuters on Wednesday.
Two powerful Texas businessmen joined the lobbying against
the bill, legislative sources told Reuters.
Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and grocery chain magnate
Charles E. Butt hired one of Austin's most powerful lobbyists
to oppose the legislation.
Bob Perry has long been known as the top Republican donor
in Texas. Last year alone, he gave some $7 million to political
candidates, mainly Republicans, according to the Texas Ethics
Commission. Some $2.5 million of that went to Governor Rick
Perry. Bob Perry is not related to the governor.
Butt, who owns the H-E-B grocery store chain, donated close
to $1 million to political candidates on both sides of the
aisle last year, according to the commission.
"They had real reservations about it," Bill Miller, the
lobbyist hired by the influential businessmen, told Reuters.
"They wanted some changes made, and we expressed the
reservations they had about it to members, which kind of slowed
Miller would not say what those concerns were, and calls to
homebuilder Perry for comment were not returned late Wednesday.
But lawmakers said business interests worried that the law
would allow police to harass their workers. The construction
and retail industries employ thousands of immigrants in Texas
and across the nation.
Another factor in the bill's demise may have been
opposition from Texas law enforcement groups.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)