Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Hunger Strikes, Vigils and Protests Erupt in Texas in Support of Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Against SB4

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

The debate about so-called sanctuary cities is not cooling down in spite of the blow anti-immigrant hardliners suffered yesterday when a San Francisco judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s efforts to withhold federal funds from cities deemed too lenient with undocumented immigrants.

The Texas legislature is in the middle of a heated debate on their own sanctuary jurisdictions. Texas lawmakers have introduced SB4, which mirrors the Trump administration’s crusade against undocumented immigrants. They intend to fast-track the law and skip debate procedures.

The intensity of the debate is heated.

Texas State Representative Victoria Neave is protesting SB4 with a hunger strike in reaction to the proposal to hold immigrants under suspicion of being undocumented for 48 extra hours until ICE can pick them up and start the deportation process. These “detainers” or “ICE holds” are often done even though individuals have been cleared and deemed free to go by state statute.

This comes after Texas Governor Abbott withheld grants from Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez when she declared her support for community policing policies. These policies foster trust in marginalized communities, allowing ICE detainers only in cases that involve felons and people who have arrest warrants.

Democrats in the Texas state legislature, along with citizens and advocates, are trying to prevent an attempt to fast-track the bill.

Cesar Espinosa, leader of FIEL Houston, an immigrant rights organization, has been present in the fight against SB4 and commented that the bill will likely pass.

“Immigration is something that should be handled along our borders, not within our communities,” stated Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in a message disseminated in Twitter. “I think it makes our jobs as law enforcement professionals more difficult when people are afraid to come forward to report crimes either as a witness or as a complainant.”

Religious groups who support immigrants’ rights held vigils and special prayer services last Sunday to protest the extreme measures that may be implemented against the undocumented.

They cited Bible passages as the foundation of their opposition, including Exodus 22:21: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

UPDATE: After 16 hours of heated debate and several amendments attached which make SB4 more damaging to the community, the Texan legislature passed SB4.