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This Week in Texas, Houston Joins Lawsuits Against SB 4, and Advocates Tell Federal Government to Stay Out

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Houston joins lawsuit, advocates prepare for Monday hearing

This week in Texas, the Houston City Council voted 10-6 to file suit against Texas and its SB 4 anti-immigrant law. The vote came after advocates testified for over six hours in front of the City Council about SB 4’s potential to tear apart families and discriminate against minorities. The city of Brownsville has also announced that it plans to follow suit. Houston joins seven other jurisdictions challenging SB 4, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Bexar County, Travis County, El Cenizo, and El Paso.

As Daniel Candelaria an organizer with United We Dream Houston said:

This is a significant step, but it must not be the last, and the fight to improve the lives of our immigrant community in Houston and Texas is not over. Here in Houston, and across the state, immigrants and people of conscience must rise up to demand that local elected officials enact policies to stop Trump and Governor Abbott’s racist agendas.

Advocates are also preparing for a rally on Monday in San Antonio, when hundreds will gather from all over the state to protest SB 4 while a federal court considers a motion to block the law until lawsuits against it are resolved. Participating organizations include the Texas Organizing Project, Workers Defense Project, ACLU of Texas, MALDEF, Texas Civil Rights Project, SEIU-Texas, Mi Familia Vota, MOVE San Antonio, La Union del Pueblo Entero, UNITE Here San Antonio and RAICES. A livestream will be available at Facebook.com/organizetexas.

Trump Administration files statement supporting SB 4

Today, the US Department of Justice filed a statement of interest supporting SB 4 and Texas in its legal battles. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that “the Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating state and local cooperation”.

Advocates see this as the coming together of two forces in favor of mass deportation — though neither the Trump Administration nor the state of Texas will admit what the actual consequences of their policies are. Donald Trump has said that he is targeting “bad hombres”, even though his Administration is deporting mothers and fathers who have committed no crimes. And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that only serious criminals need worry about SB 4, a statement which is completely false as well.

According to Austin City Councilman Greg Casar:

This is bigger than Texas. If Senate Bill 4 is allowed to go into effect, we can expect similar laws across the country. Abbott and Trump want immigrants and their families in our community to live in fear every day. There’s just one thing standing in the way: all of us.

Echoed Mario Carrillo, State Director of America’s Voice: Texas:

It’s no surprise that the Trump Administration, which has unleashed ICE and CBP agents on immigrant communities across the country, would stand behind its best foot soldier, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in the war against immigrants.

Latino leaders adopt resolution condemning SB 4

Nearly 1,000 Latino leaders with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) passed a resolution condemning SB 4, calling for the law’s repeal and asking for all Americans to join in opposition to the law. The resolution will be sent to Donald Trump.

Said Texas state Rep. Rafael Anchia said, “In a state that is over 40 percent Latino for us to pass a ‘papers please’ bill is incomprehensible.”

Texas businesses say immigration fears causing worker shortages

The Austin Statesman writes that fears of immigration crackdowns, spurred by SB 4, have “sparked widespread worker shortages in several industries across Texas. Restaurant owners, construction contractors, and landscaping firms have all reported that many of the laborers on whom they depend for their business’ survival are fleeing the state” as Texas officials prepare to implement SB 4.

A spokesman for the horticulture industry stated that “everyone’s on pins and needles” over the potential labor losses in farms across the state. Oscar Martinez, the owner of an Austin drywall company said that his business has taken “a big hit” since the anti-immigration rhetoric has ramped up in the last year. As far as hiring Americans for those jobs, he told a local reporter that those he has hired “can’t last in this job more than half a day.”

Op-eds and commentary

Dennis Nixon, chief executive of International Bancshares Corp. and International Bank of Commerce in Laredo, wrote about SB 4’s potentially devastating impact on Texas’ economy and says that Texas should better value its immigrant workforce:

If the current performance of the Texas Legislature and its agenda is an indicator of future results, the Texas miracle is in danger of being snuffed out.

Lawmakers ended their most recent regular session pushing through controversial issues like Senate Bill 4, which beyond entangling the state in a likely lengthy legal battle can have disastrous effects on the immigrant workforce vital to the Texas economy. It would be foolish to assume that mass deportations of workers in the shadows – who often are gainfully employed in agriculture, manufacturing or construction, and contributing to the Texas economy – would have minimal impact on the state’s GDP…

Instead of promoting policies that inhibit or reverse the flow of human capital, such as Senate Bill 4, we should be looking for ways to protect and promote the workforce of the future.

Blasting News underscored the fact that laws like SB 4 make immigrant communities less trustful of police, which leads to worse public safety for everyone:

Despite people’s immigration status, police departments don’t want their officers to be seen as a threat but rather as a community resource. One officer even made it clear to Hispanic communities that they don’t care about their legal status and that by reporting the crime, they can be part of solving those crimes.

He also said that they have “Citizens on Patrol” volunteers who serve as a neighborhood watch. That Officer, Daniel Segura, feels that they will no longer be able to reassure residents that they’re their friends and not their enemies. He’s also said that he would not do it if it goes against his character.

According to one report by the Washington Post titled, “Hispanics ‘are going further into the shadows’ amid chilling immigration debate, police say”, reported that crime reporting has dropped rather significantly. It points to Houston for instance, saying that the reporting of rape and sexual assault had fallen to 43 percent within three months.

The Foreign Policy Magazine article also refers to another article by FiveThirtyEight titled, “Latinos in three cities are reporting fewer crimes since Trump took office,” where it mentions Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles as areas where the reporting of crimes has decreased. These cities are currently fighting the law in the courts before it goes into effect in September.

At the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Dona Kim Murphey, an activist and neurologist/neuroscientist, wrote about the unintended consequences of policies like SB 4, including worsened public health due to immigrant children and their parents being too afraid to go to the doctor:

As a physician activist, I have had innumerable conversations with colleagues working in safety-net health service systems across Houston and Harris County about the very real threat of egregious anti-immigrant legislation on the health and safety of our patients. A number of providers report seeing dramatic increases in cancellations and clinic no-shows. However, they uniformly decline to report this publicly for fear of jeopardizing their ability to continue providing services in a punitive climate to an already vulnerable, medically underserved community.

A powerful historic correlation between anti-immigrant legislation and decreased health-service utilization should give us all pause. Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, which restricted access to publicly funded health care services to undocumented immigrants, explicitly to remove incentive for illegal immigration. Not only has this decreased utilization among our undocumented communities, there has been a reduction in Medicaid participation by eligible immigrants, including the U.S. born children of undocumented parents, who already experience multiple intersecting systems of disadvantage, including poverty and a scarcity of educational opportunities. Again, this creates an environment in which our patients are so crippled by fear that they do not care for themselves. This will come at great cost to us all.

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