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(AUSTIN, Texas) — As the anti-immigrant, anti-democracy SB4 makes its way towards Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature, community members, faith leaders and elected officials are staging May Day a sit-in in his office to protest the passage of this hateful legislation. Protesters are calling on Gov. Abbott to veto the bill and are promising that they will resist the measure even if he signs it. Those sitting in come from across the state including the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio and Travis County.
“Gov. Abbott’s signature is not the end of the fight against SB4, it is only just the beginning,” said Amy Fischer, Policy Director with RAICES.
SB4 may be the most extreme anti-immigrant state-level legislation of its kind. The law would force police to conduct "papers, please" searches — even campus police; would make it mandatory to comply with ICE detainer requests — even though courts have ruled them unconstitutional; and even threatens to criminally charge public officials who enact local immigration policies that voters want.
The version that passed the Texas House on Thursday includes language that allows local police to ask about immigration status when someone is merely “detained,” rather than arrested — a dangerous distinction that has the potential to make any interaction with local law enforcement in Texas an instrument of Trump’s deportation force. The “detained” language makes the bill all the more extreme because the Trump administration has enacted policies that make every immigrant a “priority” for deportation regardless of any previous interaction with the criminal justice system.
In their own words, from some of the 25 people participating in the sit-in this May Day morning:
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar:
“Throughout our nation's history, many have engaged in similar acts of conscience to bring us closer to liberty and justice for all. Today, we carry on that tradition as we sit-in against SB 4. I do not expect that Governor Abbott will do the right thing and veto this bill. Be 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."
Norma Herrera, formerly undocumented Texan
“We are sitting in at the governor’s office because it is or moral obligation to resist unjust laws just as it was our civic duty to tell our representatives we didn’t want one to begin with. As a public servant, I worked for the very body that now wants to run me out of my state in supposed allegiance to a voluntary federal program. As a proud Texas Latina, I know that’s a dog whistle for anti-immigrant hate. When our families are targeted, we will hold our elected officials accountable to our pain.”
Sister Pamela Buganski, SND:
“Last week I was sitting with some students and we were talking about this bill. I witnessed trembling and tears as I listened. The fear I heard in their voices is why I am here today. We have a duty to be a voice for the voiceless and I am here today to stand up for them.”
Rev. Chuck Freeman, Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry:
“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.”
Jenny Hixon, Director of Casa RAICES:
“I'm doing this because as the director of Casa RAICES in San Antonio, a shelter for women and children released from immigration detention, SB 4 puts the families I serve at direct risk. As a native Texan and mother of two small children, I have a duty to stand with other families in Texas and do whatever is necessary to prevent our immigrant families from being violently ripped apart by legislators seeking to sow fear instead of build communities.”
Rev. Jim Rigby, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church:
“We have a message for our undocumented neighbors here in Austin. We love you and want you here. We voted for Sheriff Hernandez because she promised to make our city safe and just for us all. We would rather suffer by your side than be guilty bystanders to the cruel and undemocratic tyranny of this administration. We cannot stop them from gerrymandering and abusing our city, but we will not let them divide us spiritually. As your Christian neighbors, we are honored to enter into a time of suffering by your side until ALL of us can live free from these evil politics of fear.”
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Austin Sanctuary Network is a multi-faith coalition of congregations in and around Austin that have been invited to join the larger immigrant rights struggle. Together with those at risk of deportation and their families and allies, the ASN is seeking justice and dignity by opening doors to provide sanctuary as a tool to achieve those goals.
Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.
ICE out of Austin is an immigrant-led campaign to end collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents in Austin and Travis County.
RAICES, founded in 1986 as part of the sanctuary movement in South Texas, fights for the rights of asylum seekers, refugees, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, and immigrants to create a more just world.