The end of the 85th Texas Legislature produced one of the most Texas headlines possible: “Texas Lawmaker Threatens to Shoot Colleague After Reporting Protesters to ICE.”
Hundreds of people converged on the Texas House on Monday, the last day of the legislative session, to protest already-signed legislation that bans sanctuary cities in Texas. During the protest, Republican state Representative Matt Rinaldi went up to a group of Latino lawmakers, and allegedly made a series of aggressive comments. Democratic Reps. César Blanco and Ramon Romero told the Texas Tribune on Monday that Rinaldi’s comments included:
“I’m glad I just called ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] to have all these people deported.”
“He said, ‘I called ICE — fuck them,’” Romero added. Rinaldi also turned to the Democratic lawmakers and yelled, “Fuck you,” to the “point where spit was hitting” their faces, Romero said.
[Rinaldi told them that] Rinaldi is an Italian name and that the Irish and Italians were once treated poorly in this country.
“He said, ‘the difference between me and them is that I love this country,’” said Blanco, who added: “It’s just disrespectful.”
Those comments sparked a fight between Rinaldi and Democratic Reps. Ramero and Pancho Nevárez; Rinaldi admits that he claimed to call ICE and threatened to shoot Nevárez.
But yesterday, a local ABC station in Austin reported that ICE told them that the agency “is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter since media first reported it on May 29,” calling Rinaldi’s bluster into question.
Tonight, though, the Houston Chronicle reports that Rinaldi did, in fact, call ICE. The agency told the newspaper that:
a “more careful” review of records found there was a call placed at 12:05 p.m. Monday to the national ICE Tip Line. “This call was logged and a formal report was forwarded to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations office in San Antonio,” the statement said.
The confirmation was a reversal from ICE’s statement Tuesday, which stated: “ICE is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter.”
While Rinaldi was telling the truth about being a monster who calls ICE and threatens to shoot his coworkers, he may have lied about why he called in the first place. He claimed that he saw protesters wielding signs that said “I am illegal and here to stay,” but as of yet, there’s no proof of those signs.
From the Chronicle:
Another contested issue is whether the protesters had signs that read, “I am illegal and here to stay,” as Rinaldi has stated. Some Democratic lawmakers have said those signs were not in the gallery, which DPS cleared after protesters began to chant and wave banners with the messages: “See you in court” and “See you at the polls.”
Rinaldi, a man incapable of embarrassment, may have gone ballistic on his colleagues in part because he figured he might not have to see them until 2019—the Texas legislature only meets every other year. But Texas governor Greg Abbott and lieutenant governor Dan Patrick have been threatening to call a special session this summer to pass a transphobic bathroom bill. This is the least of Texas’s problems, but Rinaldi may have to face his coworkers just a few weeks after threatening to shoot one of them.