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Advocates Rally in San Antonio as Court Hears Motion to Block SB 4

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Today, advocates from all over Texas gathered for an all-day rally in San Antonio while a federal court considered a motion to block the state’s SB 4 anti-immigrant law from taking effect. Outside, advocates showed off signs, spoke out against the damage SB 4 would do to immigrant communities, marched, and chanted. Children with the Workers Defense Project wore butterfly wings to represent migration and empowerment. A livestream can be viewed at Facebook.com/organizetexas; pictures from throughout the day can be seen here or below.

Inside the packed courtroom, leaders and attorneys from Austin, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, MALDEF, LULAC, the Texas Civil Rights Project squared off against representation from the state of Texas and the state Attorney General’s office, as well as two Department of Justice lawyers. The Trump Administration last week declared a statement of interest in the case, saying it would participate in the lawsuit “because of the strong federal interest in facilitating state and local cooperation”. The presiding judge, San Antonio-based Judge Orlando Garcia, recently ruled against ICE detainers and the way they violate the due process of immigrants (SB 4 mandates compliance with them).

Advocates argued that SB 4 violates federal preemption, the 4th amendment, and equal protection rights. They argued that local police should not be mandated to do the job of federal ICE agents and pointed out the absurdity of the police and other officials being jailed for not following the law. “Mandatory cooperation is an oxymoron,” said the lawyer for Houston at one point.

They also stressed the deeply harmful consequences of SB 4, some of which have already been observed across the state. Experts testified that the debate around SB 4 alone has already caused a 21% decrease in TexasWIC participation (i.e. food for hungry families). Sexual assault reporting is down, and victims of violence have been refusing to appear in court. An Austin-based expert said that there has been a 152% increase in school absences due to ICE raids.

Texas and the lawyers from Trump’s Department of Justice, for their part, tried to argue that the effects of SB 4 are moderate and that the law is not mandatory. The attorney for the state Attorney General’s office said that the intent of SB 4 was to encourage local police to work more closely with ICE, but that it was OK if local police were too busy to help ICE. Judge Garcia was reportedly skeptical, asking where in the SB 4 legislation it said that.

View all the livetweets from Austin City Councilman Greg Casar here.