Dozens of protesters in favor of illegal immigration planted themselves in the lobby of the State Insurance Building Monday in Austin, Texas, to decry Gov. Greg Abbott’s imminent signing of a bill cracking down on sanctuary cities.
The assembled activists insisted they wouldn’t leave the premises unless the Republican governor decided to veto Senate Bill 4, of which Abbott is one of the bill’s leading proponents. The bill, which passed the Texas House last week, would require state and municipal officials to fully comply with federal immigration laws and agencies or face a Class A misdemeanor. The bill also allows police officers to inquire into a suspect’s immigration status if he is detained or arrested.
“I’m here to use my privilege to expand the privilege of others who are not being afforded their dignity as human beings and their constitutional rights in our country.”
“I do not expect that Governor Abbott will do the right thing and veto this bill,” said Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, an attendee of the sit-in, according to a press release from the Austin-based immigrant activist group Grassroots Leadership. “[But] we will only defeat this dangerous and discriminatory law if we fight it every step of the way — in the courts, in our halls of government, and by organizing our communities.”
Another attendee, Rev. Chuck Freeman from the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry, said he was attending the protest because “I am very aware that I am one of the most privileged people on the planet.”
“I’m here to use my privilege to expand the privilege of others who are not being afforded their dignity as human beings and their constitutional rights in our country,” Freeman said, according to the Grassroots Leadership press release.
According to the logic of Rev. Jim Rigby from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, “This is not about the law … This is about sending terror across the community,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
As the dozens of protesters gathered, they broke out into chants of, “SB-4 is hate! SB-4 is hate!” Others chanted, “Ain’t no power like the power of people because the power of people don’t stop,” as Department of Public Safety Texas State Troopers surrounded them, My San Antonio reported.
“This building is ours. We’re going to have a party,” Alejandro Caceres of Grassroots Leadership, told the nearly 50 protesters who blocked access to the Capitol complex, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Grassroots Leadership has labeled the SB-4 bill as “anti-immigrant” and “anti-democracy” in requiring Texas officials to enforce and comply with federal immigration laws.
“There are some officials in the state of Texas, as well as across the United States, who simply do not want to apply the rule of law in their jurisdiction, who want to promote lawlessness. And it’s inexcusable,” Abbott said Sunday on Fox News. “And one tool that we now have is the ability to remove these officials from office by subjecting them to criminal penalty by forcing them into the jail that they are letting people out of.”
Abbott noted that he has already withheld state funds from Travis County — where Austin is located — after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez infamously reduced her department’s cooperation with federal immigration officials and deliberately refused federal detainers for criminal aliens.
Under the SB-4 bill, Travis County and other sanctuary counties and jurisdictions would face fines of $25,000 per day they refused to cooperate, Officials such as Hernandez would also face potential jail time if they refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
This move to restore law and order to Travis County and Texas alike, however, enraged progressive activists, who stormed the state Capitol Monday calling for illegal immigrants’ “constitutional rights.”
“Our community will stop this law,” Casar said, according to My San Antonio. “Regardless of the governor’s threat to tear families apart, we will continue this fight.”