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This Week in Texas: Dreamers Go After Ken Paxton While Police Prepare for SB 4

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This week marked an important anniversary for Dreamers and immigration advocates around the country: Tuesday was the 5th anniversary of the implementation of DACA, and thousands of Dreamers in dozens of states demonstrated in favor of the program and protections for immigrant youth.

In Austin, Texas, the DACA anniversary involved an act of civil disobedience at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, where about a hundred advocates asked Paxton to consider Dreamers’ contributions to America and withdraw his threats against DACA. After refusing to leave, half a dozen advocates were arrested and held in Travis County Jail for nearly 24 hours before being released.

View video of their arrests and their release from jail here, and here. Photos from their release are available here, here, and here.

As Julieta Garibay of United We Dream said:

Six Texas community leaders — educators, labor advocates, and activists, were jailed for nearly 24 hours after sending a clear message to Paxton: We will not be quieted and we will not back down! We call on people of conscience across the country to take bold action to defend DACA and demand that Paxton stop his attacks on our people.

Separately, another Dreamer and DACA recipient, Damaris Gonzalez, bravely confronted Paxton last week about why he wanted to end DACA. Damaris told Paxton that DACA has changed her life and allowed her to provide for herself and her family. As she said to him, “No human is illegal. We fought for DACA. And we won it. And we will protect it at any cost.”

Hundreds in Texas protest border wall

Dreamers and advocates weren’t the only ones protesting this week. Last Friday, hundreds of demonstrators some 40 different groups — ranging from environmentalists to landowner’s rights groups to immigration advocates — gathered in the Rio Grande area to demonstrate against Trump’s border wall.

Opposition to the wall, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises, has been vehement, with polls showing that sixty percent of Americans don’t want the wall to be built. The wall has been called stupid and costly, and not a single lawmaker from the border region, Democrat or Republican, has been publicly supportive of the wall. If built, the wall would cut through a federally protected wildlife refuge, split apart border towns, and rip Americans from their homes — in addition to costing billions and standing as a symbol of America’s intolerance toward immigrants. While the House has passed a spending bill that contains funding for the wall, it is unclear if the Senate will follow suit.

As Marie Montalvo, a resident of San Benito, Texas, said of why she attended the rally against the wall: “I want my nieces and nephews, and the children of the Rio Grande Valley, to know that I was completely against this.”

Texas police prepare to implement SB 4

Texas’ special legislative session is over, and without action from the courts, the state will begin implementing SB 4 on September 1st.

That’s a problem for the law enforcement agencies around the state, many of which are led by chiefs who have spoken out against the anti-immigrant law, saying that police shouldn’t be doing ICE’s job for them and that SB 4 will endanger public safety by making immigrants less willing to talk to law enforcement. Texas, apparently, hasn’t issued any guidance or required any training for police agencies on how to implement the law. Yet there is a provision within SB 4 which says that officers and elected officials could face fines or jail time if they impede the law.

According the Washington Post, different police departments in major cities around the state are making plans for the law as best they know how. Under SB 4, police will be given free reign to ask for the immigration status of anyone who is detained, and some agencies are trying to put accountability plans in place to stem abuse:

Houston police are drafting a policy instructing officers about their responsibilities under the law. Police Chief Art Acevedo, an outspoken opponent of Senate Bill 4, said officers will be required to file a report anytime they ask someone about their immigration status.

In part, Acevedo said, he’s concerned about a minority of officers “taking SB4 as a mandate and as a blank check to go out and become immigration agents.”

The San Antonio Police Department has made plans to rescind parts of a 2015 policy that says its officers “do not, and will not, ask people they contact for proof of citizenship or legal residency.” The department will create training programs on the law if it stands, said spokesman Jesse Salame.

Police in Dallas are revising the department training manual and working on training for officers on how to enforce the law, KXAS-TV reported.

In Fort Worth, the department in the coming days will issue new instructions for officers on how to document each time they check someone’s immigration status, a spokesman told The Associated Press.

Advocates, however, say that much more training will be needed to make sure officers don’t infringe on anyone’s civil liberties. Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which is among the groups suing Texas over the law, said officers need more training to avoid discriminating against someone “on the basis of how they look, or even how they speak or what accent they have.”

“There are numerous things that an officer would have to very quickly get up to speed on to avoid violating someone’s constitutional rights,” he said.

Read more about SB 4, Texas’ anti-immigrant law here.

Also see

El Paso Times (Editorial) Paxton cherrypicks his constitutional battles for politics, not justice
August 17, 2017