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This Week in Texas: Hurricane Harvey and SB 4

 

Texas was the center of a lot of news this week, due to Hurricane Harvey and (for the immigration crowd) the injunction of the SB 4 anti-immigrant law. Here’s a summary of everything that’s happened in immigration-related Texas news this week:

Texas SB 4 Injunction

US District Judge Orlando Garcia Blocks SB 4 hours before law was to take effect. This week was the last week before SB 4 was scheduled to take effect on September 1. The ruling means that SB 4’s key provisions are blocked: local jails do not have to cooperate with ICE detainers, individuals do not have to answer questions about their immigration status, and police and elected officials will not be punished for not cooperating with the law. View some of the reactions to the injunction here and here.

Hurricane Harvey and Immigrants

Houston will need undocumented workers — and Dreamers — to rebuild. After Hurricane Katrina, it was estimated that some 100,000 Hispanic workers — many of them undocumented — thronged into the Gulf Coast region to rebuild. But today, there are a record 6.16 million jobs open in the US, and it’s hard to find labor. Given the Trump administration’s hostility to Latinos and desire to ramp up deportations, it’s unlikely that what worked in previous disasters will work again. Relatedly, there are Texas Dreamers who work as health care technicians, nurses, and repairmen, who may not be allowed to continue working and contributing to the city’s revival if Trump takes DACA away. Thus, Texas, and Trump’s, antipathy toward undocumented workers and Dreamers may hamper Houston’s recovery. (Also see Fabiola Santiago’s op-ed about how taking away DACA would be a humanitarian disaster on top of a humanitarian disaster for Texas Dreamers.)

Immigrants and refugees are helping in Harvey’s relief efforts. The Huffington Post this week published a story on how refugees from Syria and other recent immigrants now living in Houston are eager to help their neighbors in the wake of the hurricane. “As humans, we have to help each other,” said one recent immigrant and Houston volunteer. Meanwhile, four workers in a Mexican bakery were trapped for two days by rising floodwaters, and passed the time by baking bread. The bakers churned out around 4,000 pieces of bread, which were donated to local shelters and a nearby police station.

Issues arise as immigrants seek safety during Harvey. Some troubling headlines popped up this week as Harvey made landfall and immigrants and residents took shelter. Border Patrol initially said they’d be keeping checkpoints open, imperiling immigrants from border regions who may have chosen not to evacuate for fear of encountering immigration authorities.

Before SB 4 was blocked in court, there were — and continue to be — questions of how safe immigrants would be in shelters and other places for receiving assistance, and whether the anti-immigrant law would come into effect as the state continues to respond to Harvey. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for SB 4 to be “shelved” during hurricane relief efforts, and city officials tried to communicate to residents that it was safe to seek help.

Meanwhile, during Harvey’s landfall, ICE left 50 immigrant women and children — asylee applicants from Central America — stranded at a bus stop before they were taken in by advocates and church members.