A Texas Capitol protest of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, immigrant raids and a so-called sanctuary cities bill drew about 1,000 people Saturday, including refugees, immigrants, Latinos and Muslims.
Amid Republican support for Senate Bill 4, which would require local law enforcement officers to comply with federal immigration requests to detain undocumented immigrants, and Trump’s ban, the “No Ban, No Wall at Texas” group organized the event, which featured musical performances and about 20 speakers to celebrate Hispanic culture and bring awareness to the struggles faced by Muslim and immigrant communities statewide.
“There have been other times in American history where politics hit a low point and took a darker path. (Trump) is not the first politician to divide Americans,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, said while crowds applauded. “In every generation, there have been people like you, Americans who stood up and said, ‘This is not the kind of country we want.’ Through your hard work and energy, this is our moment to stand up.”
The travel ban immediately sparked nationwide protests after refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries were barred from entering the U.S. A federal judge temporarily suspended the executive order, which the Justice Department has appealed. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to reinstate the order.
Texas became the first state to support Trump’s travel ban, on Feb. 15, when Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed a brief with the appeals court.
“The law makes it very clear that the president has discretion to protect the safety of the American people and our nation’s institutions with respect to who can come into this country,” Paxton said in a statement.
At the protest, activists also expressed concern about recent immigration raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in at least six states, including Texas.
“The most important thing we can do for all our communities is to transform pain into action like you who are here today,” said Gregorio Casar, an Austin City Council member. “We’re organizing, we’re fighting, and local leaders are standing up.”
The sanctuary cities bill, authored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would ban local law enforcement agencies from enacting policies to prohibit officers from asking about someone’s immigration status if they are lawfully detained. It would also require local law enforcement to comply with ICE requests, known as detainers, to hand over undocumented immigrants in custody to federal agents for possible deportation.
The bill passed the Senate and is on its way to the House.
“This is a time where we need to resist fear and paranoia, and resist politicians who have turned us against each other,” Castro said. “When we have people like Ted Cruz who support these policies, we need to say, ‘Enough.’ We have to stand for each other, no matter where we come from.”
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who has been outspoken against Trump’s rhetoric toward Mexico and his campaign promise about construction of a wall on the border, said El Paso, a city on the border, is the safest city in Texas and the U.S.
“We have a choice to make: Do we want walls or bridges, love or hate, fear or peace?” O’Rourke asked. “We are going to take back our communities, our state, our U.S. Senate and the United States of America.”
This article was published in the San Antonio Express-News Feb. 25, 2017.