Protests grow as Texas moves against 'sanctuary' cities

February 2, 2017
Al Jazeera

Hundreds of protesters took to the Texas capital on Thursday to rally against the halting of more than a million dollars towards law enforcement.

Earlier, Governor Greg Abbott kept to his promise to withhold $1.5m from Travis County's law enforcement in an effort to penalise Austin's "sanctuary city" status.

Sanctuary cities in general offer safety to undocumented migrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Sanctuary city is not an official designation.

Now, Texas politicians are discussing Senate Bill 4, which aims to cut funding and impose other consequences on cities that provide safe harbour to the undocumented.

"When I came in, there was a long line to sign up to testify in support of Austin's sanctuary city status … it's a lot of people," Cristina Parker, immigration programmes director at the civil rights group Grassroots Leadership, told Al Jazeera.

Parker explained that Abbott's decision was viewed negatively by the community. 

"We all rally around law enforcement. We don't see any reason behind cutting their funding," she said. "It doesn't make any sense."

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The protests in Austin come as US President Donald Trump continues to target the undocumented, threatening to deport them, and boasting about the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico to stem migration.

But according to Parker, this has given vigour to the movement to protect the undocumented.

"There's a lot more energy. I credit that with Trump supplying more fear. People feel a different sense of urgency," she concluded.