A Texas state senator angrily criticized a man for giving his testimony in Spanish during a committee hearing in Austin on Monday, telling the man to "speak English."
Antolin Aguirre was testifying against a proposed bill that would crack down on illegal immigration, My Fox Dallas-Fort Worth reported Friday.
Republican state Sen. Chris Harris told Aguirre that his testimony was "insulting to us."
Aguirre, who has been in the U.S. since 1988, continued with his remarks in Spanish using an interpreter to relay the information, saying that he felt more comfortable testifying in Spanish.
Several other witnesses testified in their native language of Spanish, arguing that the bill is too vague and will lead to racial profiling against Latinos and the further distrust of police among immigrant communities.
"You get a climate of fear," said Olga Garza Kaufman, of San Antonio, who was born in Mexico and later moved to Texas with her family. "My parents were perfectly legal, but they were afraid of police. That's what happens when you have a culture that does not value its immigrants."
The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Tommy Williams, a Republican, said police take an oath to uphold the law, both federal and state, and should be freed up to ask about detainees' immigration status because they could catch criminals or aspiring terrorists who slipped into the country.
The bill sends "a loud and clear message to criminal aliens that we will not tolerate their presence in Texas," Williams said.
Texas law enforcement officials said that they oppose legislation that would free up officers in so-called sanctuary cities to ask about the immigration status of anyone pulled over during a traffic stop, questioned as a witness or otherwise detained.
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez testified at a Senate hearing that the immigration bill the Legislature is likely to approve could make immigrants afraid to report crimes and cause the further crowding of jails.
The bill could get a full Senate vote by midweek.