Originally published by The Huffington Post
Dozens of protesters poured into the offices of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Monday, refusing to leave unless he agrees to veto a Republican-backed effort to crack down on “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
The protest puts immigrant rights activists, faith leaders and at least one elected official on path to confrontation with the Republican governor, who is likely to disregard the pressure and eventually sign Senate Bill 4 into law.
The legislation, widely opposed by state law enforcement officials, would impose jail time and fines on local officials who decline to cooperate with every request by federal immigration authorities to detain an undocumented immigrant on their behalf. Draft versions of the bill, which have passed both chambers of the legislature, but have yet to be reconciled, would allow local police to ask about the immigration status of those they stop, including children.
Opponents say the bill will lead to increased deportations, undermine trust between police and immigrant communities, and put Hispanics at risk for racial profiling.
Dozens of activists gathered Monday morning in front of the south gates of the Texas Capitol, before marching down the street to the beat of a drum, chanting, “No SB4!” When the throng of protesters arrived at the State Insurance Building, where several of the governor’s offices are located, they walked up the stairs. Several sat in the lobby, vowing not to move.
“We don’t have rights,” activist Carmen Zubieta yelled in Spanish through a bullhorn. “And then they make a business out of putting us in jail,” she added ― a reference to the fact that roughly two-thirds of immigrant detention center beds are run as for-profit enterprises by private prison contractors.
worked for the Texas legislature for three years, but with the passage of SB4 felt betrayed.
Herrera was among more than 100 religious leaders, immigrants, and law enforcement officials who registered opposition to the bill during committee hearings, without budging the legislature’s Republican majority.
“I considered myself an important part of that building,” Herrera said of the Texas capitol. “But now I see that, depending on the political climate, they can just police you out. … The process failed us.”
The group continued to chant and sing songs, including, “No Nos Moverán,” before splitting into two, with each of them blocking one of the main entrances to the building. “This entrance is closed! This entrance is closed!” they chanted, when people tried to enter or exit the building.
The baseline definition of a “sanctuary” jurisdiction is one that declines to reflexively honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees who would otherwise be allowed to leave in local jails ― either because they weren’t charged with a crime, or they qualified for release on bond. By that standard, the only sanctuary jurisdiction in the state is Travis County, where Austin is located.
Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, who sat among the protesters, likened the Texas immigration crackdown bill to Arizona’s contentious SB 1070 ― a 2010 measure derided by opponents at the “show me your papers law.” Texas state government should expect litigation, he said.
“We won’t be coerced,” Casar told HuffPost. “Even if [Gov. Abbott] threatens us with criminalization, even if he threatens to remove us from office, we can’t betray our communities.”
Texas Republicans have tried to pass some version of a “sanctuary city” ban for several years, but were unable to field enough votes in the state Senate. The bill finally made it through this year, after easing long-standing Senate rules that required a two-third votein order to bring any bill for debate before the high chamber.
Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/texas-sanctuary-cities-immigration_us_59077423e4b02655f83f0312?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009