Fasting Lawmaker Gets Support, Death Wishes Ahead of ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Debate

House Democrats say they will fight SB 4 "with everything we've got" during Wednesday's debate.


State Representative Victoria Neave, D-Mesquite  Facebook/ Victoria Neave

A Democratic lawmaker who began fasting in opposition to the so-called sanctuary cities bill on Sunday has been joined by supporters in the demonstration, but has also received wishes that she “starve to death” from opponents.

Democratic State Representative Victoria Neave, D-Mesquite, says she won’t eat or drink anything other than water until after Wednesday’s House debate on its version of Senate Bill 4. Opponents of the legislation say SB 4 is a threat to public safety, including law enforcement officials from Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio.

After announcing her plans to fast for four days following mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas on Sunday, Neave’s social media feeds have been flooded with both positive and negative reactions. More than 100 tweets have been posted with the hashtag #FastAgainstSB4 in support of Neave. One said, “I support you, @Victoria4Texas, and thank you for being such a courageous public servant!” Others said they are joining Neave in fasting until Wednesday night, but some took a different tone.

“We’ve had a lot of death comments, people hoping that I die, that I starve to death,” Neave told the Observer.

State Representative Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, tweeted Monday that Neave is “being targeted by hate for her prayerful fast leading up to SB4.”

Neave said her decision to fast was “very spiritual” and personal because her father came to the U.S. from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant before becoming a citizen.

“I know that we don’t have the votes to defeat it, and so this was sort of one form of sacrifice — of peaceful protest — that to me, connected with my faith,” she said.

State Rep. Charlie Geren  Facebook

On Tuesday, state Representative Charlie Geren, the Republican from Fort Worth who authored the House version of SB 4, joked to the Austin American-Statesman that he needed to “postpone [the debate] a couple days and see how hungry she gets.”

Despite being touted as a more moderate version, Geren’s proposal preserves some of the most controversial components of the bill, including civil and criminal penalties for local law enforcement officials if they decline to assist federal immigration authorities. The measure also prevents local law enforcement, including campus police departments, from adopting policies to stop officers from enforcing immigration law.

House Democrats are gearing up for the debate on Wednesday, and both the House Democratic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus plan to file amendments to weaken the bill’s impact. At least 150 amendments are expected to be heard during Wednesday’s debate.

“Democrats in the House are strongly opposed to SB 4, and we’re going to fight it with everything we’ve got. We are going to demonstrate that this bill is unnecessary, it’s a solution in search of a problem, it is divisive, and it will harm Texas and Texans,” said Representative Chris Turner, the chair of the Democratic caucus in the House.

Under the House version of SB 4, local jails would have to comply with federal immigration detainers, which are requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours after they would have been allowed to post bail. Immigration detainers are not mandatory under federal law, and Texas jails spent $60 million as a result of the requests in 2015.

Several law enforcement officials have testified to lawmakers that the legislation would erode trust between officers and immigrants, making investigating serious crimes in immigrant communities difficult. Witnesses may not come forward out of fear of deportation, opponents say. However, not all law enforcement officials agree — in March, Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback testified in support of SB 4 in the Senate State Affairs Committee on behalf of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas.

“Sometimes, logic and facts and data don’t seem to matter around here. I hope that changes tomorrow,” Turner said.