SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) - We're learning more about what led Smith County commissioners to vote on some immigration resolutions and the reason for the outcomes.
The commissioners court discussion Tuesday came down to what a county government's role is. Wednesday, Judge Joel Baker told me he doesn't believe his commissioners court has the legal right to make a ruling about the immigration issue.
Immigration is the topic everyone's talking about, but does that mean a county office is allowed to make a ruling on the issue? That's the big question after the Smith County Commissioners Court spent about 45 minutes discussing a resolution drafted by a community member.
"Two or three weeks ago a member of the public brought a proposed resolution to us which was the resolution that League City City Council approved several weeks ago," Judge Joel Baker says.
Judge baker says that resolution League City's City Council passed says city offices should refuse housing immigrant children.
"When that initial resolution was proposed I did not feel like it was appropriate or legal because it essentially said we ignore any federal mandates or laws in regard to housing illegal immigrants in this community," Baker says.
He says he is glad the commissioners court voted against the similar resolutions proposed for Smith County. He mentions that he's even heard about possible federal lawsuits against League City's decision.
"And that's not forming the basis of my opinion, the fear that we're going to be sued by the federal government. It's just understanding the various branches of government and how they work together," Judge Baker says.
He says by law, immigration is a federal issue, so concerned citizens can force more change by bending the ears of federal legislators, instead of county and city officials.
"I think frankly if the community would write letters to their federal legislators it'd be much more effective."
He says if immigrants did come to Smith County and caused problems, he would take action.
"It could certainly cause some problems for us, and I would be in favor of us as the commissioners court, me as the county judge, writing the federal legislators, our state legislators and discussing the issue with them and trying to work with them," Judge Baker says.
As of no, he says no state or federal agencies have contacted him about housing immigrants.
Judge Baker says the county already struggles to find the time and money to deal with issues it is mandated to take care of including: infrastructure, county jails, and criminal justice.
Again, he says contacting federal legislators would create the most change.