Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), irritated because he believed Democrats were encouraging the protestors to disobey law enforcement, reportedly told his Democratic colleagues that he'd placed a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The protesters were apparently chanting and waving signs against SB4, the controversial Texas bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law this month. This angered Rinaldi's Democratic and Latino colleagues, who were almost moved to blows.
As protestors' jeers overwhelmed the House chambers, they were removed by State Police, but not before sparking animosity between representatives on the floor.
Rinaldi said a representative "threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery and said 'I am illegal and here to stay'". "No one has totally clean hands but what happened on the floor with the physical attack on Matt was beyond the pale", Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach said.
State Rep. Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth) said Rinaldi saw Hispanic people seated in the gallery and he assumed they were undocumented. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, made a decision to call upon U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt the lawful demonstrations against Senate Bill 4. Texas Democrats reacted to the law's passage with alarm; one lawmaker went on a hunger strike.Democrats still maintain Rinaldi took the fracas to the next level - calling Federal Immigration officials on the protesters and hurling death threats at his fellow members.
But Nevárez said on CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday that he did not threaten Rinaldi, and, in fact, accused the Republican of saying he was going to "put a bullet in my brain".
Democrat state Rep. Helen Giddings, who was first elected in 1992 and heads Texas' black legislative caucus, blamed politics, not race, for the tone of the session.
"He made it a point to walk right up to us and said, 'I just called immigration on all of them, '" Cortez said.
Represenative Poncho Navarez wrote on Twitter that Rinaldi is "a liar and hateful man", quoting Rinaldi's comments on the incident. "Both were created to incite each other", said Rinaldi.
"The Texas legislature has spent the last 140 days of legislative time passing the most racist, xenophobic agenda that I have seen in my lifetime", Roberts said.
Rinaldi is now under protection by State Police, he added.