Lawmakers, Advocates Unveil Campaign to Stop Anti-Immigrant Legislation

"We oppose these politics that have become poisoned with misinformation about immigrants and border life," said state Senator Jose Rodriguez.

Immigration, Legislature
State Senator Jose Rodriguez addresses crowd at Wednesday’s Capitol press conference  Gus Bova

Legislators and advocates on Wednesday announced Texas Together — a new effort that aims to resist anti-immigrant proposals in the Texas Legislature, including those that would revoke funding from so-called sanctuary cities and repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students. The campaign is an initiative of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, a coalition of immigrant advocates and activists from across the state.

“We are here to stand against the attempt to put anti-immigrant rhetoric into bills,” said state Senator Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, at a Capitol press conference Wednesday. “We oppose these politics that have become poisoned with misinformation about immigrants and border life.”

State Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, has filed Senate Bill 4, an anti-sanctuary bill that would require Texas cities and counties to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers — meaning jails would have to hold undocumented immigrants at ICE’s request for the agency to potentially deport them. The bill would strip state funding from cities and counties that do not comply. Hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country refuse to honor ICE detainers, and Travis County is set to become the first in Texas under Sheriff Sally Hernandez.

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Captain Shelley Knight of the Dallas Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that SB 4 would strain law enforcement budgets and damage trust between communities and officers.

“All of that [trust] we’ve built up will be gone,” Knight said. “So therefore they won’t come and report violent crimes, such as family violence.”

Rodriguez told the Observer that SB 4 “is likely to pass the Senate on a party-line vote… [but] we will work hard to convince our colleagues that going after cities and immigrant communities is not the right thing to do.”

Immigration, Legislature
Maria Rios of Workers Defense Project holds a Texas Together sign at Wednesday’s press conference  Gus Bova

At least three identical companion bills have been filed in the House and several other proposals have similar language.

State Representative Jonathan Stickland, R-Fort Worth, is carrying  House Bill 393, which would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students.

“Children and young adults who grew up here are Texans; it’s the only home they know,” said state Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. “And they have a right to a quality education.”

At least three Senate bills contain other harsh measures targeting immigrants: SB 108 would increase the severity of a felony charge if the offender is undocumented; SB 280 would make it criminal trespassing for an undocumented person to be on another’s property “without effective consent”; and SJR 8 would deny bail to all undocumented immigrants arrested on felony charges.

Rodriguez underscored the need for the Texas Together campaign. “President-elect Trump has reduced [immigration] issues to simple slogans and increased attacks on the most vulnerable,” he said. “And in Texas, we have a huge unnecessary expansion of the police apparatus in the border region.”

Maria Rios, an undocumented mother of two and member of the Workers Defense Project in Austin, brought a simple message for Texas legislators: “Enough with separating us from our families, and enough with your anti-immigrant policies,” she said. “Ya basta.”

Legislative Fellow Lyanne Guarecuco contributed reporting to this story.

Gus Bova is a reporter-researcher at the Observer. He focuses on immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border and grassroots movements. Before the Observer, he worked at a shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees. You can contact him at [email protected]

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Published at 4:40 pm CST
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