Advocates worry others will go after migrants if Texas SB4 upheld

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Advocates unveiled a new round of rallies and community organizing efforts as federal courts debate whether police officers in Texas can arrest undocumented migrants.

The Frontera Texas Organizing Project announced a “Day of resistance” in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and other cities in the state on April 6 to call for a repeal of SB4 and the end of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s multi-billion-dollar border safety initiative Operation Lone Star. An education and awareness rally is planned April 3 in New Orleans, and an April 9 event is in the works in El Paso.

The Frontera Texas Organizing Project plans rallies and news conferences on April 6 to demand the repeal of Texas' SB4 and an end to Operation Lone Star.

The members of several advocacy organizations involved in the project on Thursday alleged the prospect of police officers enforcing immigration laws is already sowing fear of discrimination in Latino communities throughout the state.

“The uncertainty caused by SB4 is never-wracking. Not knowing when it might be enforced affects every aspect of our lives,” said Mary Perez, board director of Laredo Immigrant Alliance. “People are afraid to seek medical care for fear of being separated from their families, fear of reporting crimes because of the color of their skin. (People) are avoiding driving in our colonias for fear of encounters with law enforcement.”

The Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 4 late last year, allowing state and local police to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally and empowering judges to order the deportation of unauthorized migrants to Mexican ports of entry, regardless of nationality.

As Texas border arrests law teeters in court, other GOP states also push tougher immigration policy

The genesis of SB4 is Texas lawmakers’ frustration with historic illegal immigration coming through South and West Texas from Mexico and the Biden administration’s perceived inability to stop it.

“Whatever happens in Texas will be mirrored elsewhere, like Louisiana. SB4 could become the model for the anti-immigrant agenda in every state,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. “I wouldn’t be surprised that if SB4 is allowed by the courts, other states will follow. What is happening in Texas will have a national impact.”

Garcia also alleged the migrant “invasion” rhetoric fueled by SB4 is already leading to “major civil rights violations.” He referred to two incidents involving physical confrontations between asylum-seekers and members of the Texas National Guard earlier this month on the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso.

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The incidents documented in viral videos show migrants circumventing a razor wire barrier placed by the guard along the river and then rushing to the border wall while guard members stand in the way. A second incident shows the Guard subduing a male migrant on the ground while two female migrants plead for them to stop.

Abbott responded to last week’s incidents by tweeting photos of the Guard deploying more razor wire. “We continue to reinforce border barriers and repel any illegal migrants. Texas is holding the line,” he restated on Monday.

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On Tuesday, Abbott pointed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s release of migrant apprehension numbers for February as proof that Operation Lone Star is working.

“Illegal crossings are down in Texas while at the same time they are skyrocketing in California and Arizona. It is because of the border wall, razor wire barriers, the National Guard and arrests by (Texas Department of Public Safety),” he said.

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