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Growing number of Hispanic Texans pushing for tougher immigration laws

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 12:  Dallas police setup a barrier after a hazmat vehicle entered the alley behind the apartment where a second person diagnosed with the Ebola virus resides on October 12, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. A female nurse working at Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital, the same facility that treated Thomas Eric Duncan, has tested positive for the virus. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 12: Dallas police setup a barrier after a hazmat vehicle entered the alley behind the apartment where a second person diagnosed with the Ebola virus resides on October 12, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. A female nurse working at Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital, the same facility that treated Thomas Eric Duncan, has tested positive for the virus. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

Pedro Rivera is 53 years old, Hispanic, and a retired military man. He's also part of a growing number of Hispanic Texans pushing for stronger immigration enforcement, including the passage of SB 185, which would stop cities from implementing policies banning local cops from asking immigration-related questions.

“I'm an American citizen and I believe in the rule of law,” Rivera said. “And being Hispanic, I should not be granted special privilege in avoiding the law. We need officers to have all the tools available to them to keep us safe. That includes asking the question, when you're being detained for a crime or being arrested for an offense, ‘Are you here illegally? Are you a U.S. citizen?'”

Rivera is working with Maria Espinoza, director of the Remembrance Project. Espinoza's Houston-based organization works with families of Americans killed by people in the United States illegally.

“This is a new initiative,” Espinoza said, of an effort to recruit Hispanic conservatives to speak out in support of SB 185.

Espinoza's new group, which isn't exclusive to people of Hispanic origin, traveled to Austin last week and asked lawmakers to stop Texas cities, like Houston , from adopting their own immigration related policies. It's not a new fight. The Texas Senate actually passed a similar measure in 2011. It prompted protests, then stalled before becoming state law. 

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Espinoza says a lot has changed in four years.

“We have more Latinos who are behind this issue and also law enforcement,” she said. “We have (four) sheriffs who testified with us to remove sanctuary city policies.”

But many more, including Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, testified in opposition of SB 185. Cesar Espinosa is an immigrant rights activist in Houston.

“We don't think it's a good idea for the state,” Espinosa said. “We don't think it's a good idea for the city. If people are afraid to come forward (and report crimes as) victims of crimes or witnesses of crimes because of their legal status, we're all going to be in trouble.”

Critics also say passage of the bill would promote racial profiling.

Maria Espinoza disagrees.

“I have never been pulled over. My daughter has never been pulled over, and none of her friends have been pulled over because of profiling,” she said. “We have to weigh the odds. We have families and we took families with us to the hearing whose loved ones were killed (by illegal immigrants). Their children were killed by people who should not have been in the country in the first place. There is no comparison in lives lost to someone being detained (for questioning) for five or ten minutes.”

A message on the homepage of The Remembrance Project website reads: “We believe that America is exceptional. In our lives and in our country, America is the priority. As are Americans! Learn what you can do to stop the nonsense of ignoring laws and our U.S. Constitution. Help stop public servants from placing other countries and non-citizens before our families. Join us to speak up for Latinos!”

Read more at myfoxhouston.com.

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