A marathon hearing on a bill that would ban so-called sanctuary cities in Texas is drawing attention for a North Texas Senator's reaction to a man's decision to testify against the bill in Spanish.
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security heard hours of testimony on the bill Monday before voting it out on a party-line 5-4 vote.
At one point, a man with the Austin Immigrants' Rights Coalition testified in Spanish with someone else translating his comments into English. The man mentioned he came to America in 1988. After about 2 minutes, Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, interrupted him.
"Why aren't you speaking in English?" Harris asked.
The man, clearly flustered, explained that he was more comfortable testifying in Spanish, his first langauge, since it was his first time delivering testimony.
"it's insulting to us," Harris said. "It is very insulting. If he knows English, he needs to be speaking in English."
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was quick to add in that, just like witnesses, "Senators are also entitled to speak their personal point of view and may not be speaking for everybody as well."
The man finished his remarks in Spanish.
The next person asked to testify drew a laugh with his opening remark: "I have prepared my remarks in English but I might choose to do them in Spanish or French, s'il vous plaît."
Here's a video of the exchange. Harris' remark comes in at the 2:20 mark:
Update: On Friday, Harris sent us the following statement:
"Senator Harris' comments were in no way meant to be derogatory. This particular individual understood and spoke English, however, purposely chose to speak in Spanish for the audience. Senator Harris believed that this individual should be addressing the Texas Legislature using the English language.
Senator Harris continues to support the passage of SB 9 which will prevent Texas cities from directly or indirectly harboring illegal immigrants. This legislation creates a uniform standard across the state that will make Texas safer."