Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Ellis Legislation to Ensure Consular Notification Approved by Committee
Senate Criminal Justice Committee passes SB 603 5-0

(Austin)// The Senate Criminal Justice Committee today approved legislation, SB603 by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), to ensure the rights of foreign nationals are protected. The committee approved SB 603 by a vote of 5-0.

Senate Bill 603 would require that when foreign nationals are arrested or detained, they must be advised of their right to have their consular officials notified. Ellis first filed legislation requiring consular notification in 2001. Earlier this month, President Bush informed the U.S. Supreme Court that he would order states, including Texas, to review these cases to investigate whether foreign nationals' rights were violated under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations when local consulates were not notified of their arrests.

"I am very pleased that the committee took this positive step," said Ellis. "When we deny the most basic legal protections to foreign nationals, we not only tarnish the integrity of justice her in Texas, but jeopardize the legal protection of Texans abroad. Indeed, if our citizens were treated as such on foreign soil we should be outraged. We should be equally disturbed when such injustices occur in the Lone Star State."

Senator Ellis has worked closely with Senator Leticia Van de Putte on this issue for the last year. They have worked closely with two prominent Texas law school professors-- Reynaldo Anaya Valencia of Saint Mary's University School of Law and Craig L. Jackson, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law -- to understand and interpret how the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) order in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America) affects Texas and 15 of the 16 foreign nationals on Texas's death row. The article will soon be published in the Yale Law and Policy Review.

Last year, Ellis and Van de Putte submitted a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott inquiring on the official position of Texas to the ICJ order. General Abbott responded by stating, "we do not believe the Supreme Court [American courts] are bound by the ICJ's decision in Avena."

"This is a very positive step toward improving Texas' criminal justice system," said Senator Ellis. "This legislation will ensure foreign nationals get the same treatment here that we demand American citizens receive abroad."