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This Week in Texas: SB 4 Will Cost Texas $5 Billion, Fort Worth Rallies Against Inaction, 18 Counties Join 287(g)

 

Here’s what’s been happening this week in Texas:

Report: SB 4 will cost Texas $5 billion

The Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, using data from the 2015 American Community Survey and Bureau of Economic Analysis, estimated that SB 4 will ultimately cost the state $5 billion in GDP, $223 million in state and local taxes, and 248,000 jobs.

The law could cost an additional $335 million in lost state and local tax revenue each year if 10% of the state’s undocumented population decided to move elsewhere.

As Adriana Cadena, the director of Texas Together, a Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance campaign, said during a press conference unveiling the report:

[SB 4] essentially allows rogue police officers with badges to harass and intimidate people of color. In doing so, it will drive away individuals from our state. In driving away those individuals, we’re going to feel the consequences in the jobs that will be lost, in the lack of investment we will see.

The law has already caused economic harm to the state by leading at least two major conventions to relocate. State Democrats have called for an update to a 2006 study released by former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, finding that undocumented immigrants added $17.7 billion to the state’s economy. And the National Football League has expressed concerns that SB 4 could affect the league’s decision to hold next year’s draft in Dallas. As they said, “Professional sports players’ associations may oppose SB 4, given the diversity of their memberships, and may withhold events from Texas.”

Hundreds protest City Council inaction in Fort Worth

In Fort Worth, hundreds this week protested their city’s refusal so far to join the efforts against SB 4. Fort Worth is the largest Texas city to not have joined the lawsuit against the state. A Tuesday city council meeting didn’t close the door on the lawsuit, but four council members and the mayor oppose taking action. Advocates that evening lined the streets around City Hall in protest.

One of those protesters was Alphonso Ramirez, whose parents moved from Mexico to Texas when they were teenagers and met in Fort Worth, where Alphonso was born. His family considers the city home, but he’s worried that feeling might change:

It’s scary, to live somewhere your whole life and now, 22 years later, I have to feel afraid that my dad can’t drive up the road late at night because he might get pulled over and not have his visa on him and end up in jail.

Fort Worth Assistant Police Chief Ed Kraus, who spoke to the City Council about SB4, said police have already noticed “certain members of our community not reporting crime,” as well an uptick in crimes against immigrants.

Longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy commented in July that he believes the city council and mayor will not take action against SB 4 because the law likely has support in heavily conservative Tarrant County.

18 Texas counties join 287(g)

Eighteen counties in Texas have entered the federal 287(g) program that deputizes local police officers to also work as immigration enforcement agents. There are nineteen Texas jurisdictions in total that are part of 287(g), meaning that Texas accounts for almost one-third of the sixty 287(g) agreements nationwide. That’s nearly double the number of active programs in 2016, and this week also marked the largest expansion of the program in recent years (only six new agreements were added between 2012 and 2016).

The new 287(g) agreements in Texas could prove dangerous when considered alongside SB 4. SB 4 is likely to lead to racial profiling and discrimination against Latinos in Texas; undocumented Texans could be detained for as little as being pulled over and found to be driving without a license. (Texas is not one of the 12 states that allows undocumented immigrants to legally drive.) Since 287(g) streamlines the removal of immigrants by tasking local police officers with identifying who should be deported, the new 287(g) agreements could the foundation of a Texas deportation pipeline.

Advocates see SB 4 as organizing opportunity of a lifetime

At Mother Jones today is a longread about SB 4, the politics of the Latino vote in Texas, and how organizers are trying to use this moment to build a stronger future for the Latino vote in the state.

California and Arizona tried pushing through anti-immigrant laws like Prop 187 and SB 1070 in the past; each time, organizers mobilized to strike the laws down, organize boycotts, and/or spur Latino voters in each state to demonstrate political muscle. That’s the moment that groups like advocacy groups like Jolt now find themselves in:

The digital organizing training I sat in on (other sessions focused on get-out-the-vote tactics, Hispanic organizing history, and how to give a media interview) was part of a slow build-up to what Jolt was calling “Freedom Summer,” inspired by the 1964 voter-registration push in Mississippi. The group aims to have 125 voter registrars signed up in Austin and Dallas by the end of the year and 2,000 active members. Its 2017 efforts are a trial run for a far larger effort ahead of next year’s elections.

In a majority-minority state still dominated by an almost entirely white Republican government, activists believe SB 4 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to mobilize disengaged communities. They talk openly of Texas following the lead of California and Arizona, two states where, to differing degrees, hardline immigration laws sparked a generational political awakening among Hispanic residents and toppled the chief backers of those policies. But such an awakening is contingent on organizers tackling a host of institutional and cultural barriers that have stymied party types for years. If SB 4 is to have that same impact on Texas, it will be because groups like Jolt figured out how to do it….

“When people look at SB 1070 and Prop 187, the fast, easy narrative is these attacks came and then people woke up,” [organizer and Jolt founder Cristina] Tzintzun says. “The real story is the attacks came, and then you had invested local community leaders and organizations that dug in deep and dug in long to mobilize and engage the community.”

Real change could take a while. In the meantime, organizers in Texas have to wrestle with the consequences of the law and the reality of the new environment. Bending to pressure from immigrant groups, five of Texas’ six largest cities have sued the state over SB 4, but it is still set to take effect in September. And if even SB 4 goes away, ICE will still be around. When 15 millennial activists—including some Jolt members—were arrested outside the state capitol in Austin in late July, as part of a series of nationwide protests organized by a group called Movimiento Cosecha, they did so knowing that it could compromise their legal status and put them at risk of deportation. Texas’ golden opportunity is a race against time.

“They were able to turn it around in California after 187, Arizona after 1070, but there were resources put in there to do the voter registration, to do the get-out-the-vote, to do the voter education, to do the citizenship,” says Carlos Duarte, the Texas state director for Mi Familia Vota. “And the reality is the country and the community just expects us Latinos to turn out—just because—without resources? It doesn’t happen that way.”

He adds, “Unless there are substantial resources invested in the state to organize, it’s not gonna happen. And then we would be wasting the best opportunity that we’ve had in a generation.”

Houston police: SB 4 is already damaging public safety

At The Intercept is an article featuring Houston police officers, including Chief Art Acevedo, speaking about how Texas’ new anti-immigrant law SB 4 is damaging public safety before it even takes effect, by eroding trust between the police and immigrant communities. The article notes some of the precautions cities like Houston are taking to ensure that SB 4, if implemented, wouldn’t lead to the en masse targeting of immigrants:

“These are the people who would become afraid to call us or be witnesses to crimes,” [Houston police officer Jesus] Robles said, gesturing toward [a Latino street] vendor, adding that even legal immigrants avoid contact with police in order to protect undocumented family members or friends.

In April, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that before SB4 had even passed, HPD saw a nearly 43 percent decrease in the number of Hispanic victims reporting rape, even as rapes reported by non-Hispanics increased by 8 percent.

Chief Acevedo told The Intercept that he has “zero tolerance” for officers who target immigrants and under SB4 will require them to write a report that explains each time they make an inquiry into someone’s citizenship status.

Border lawmakers send letter to Ken Paxton

Border lawmakers have sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asking him to reconsider his threat against Dreamers and to rescind the letter he sent to Donald Trump asking the president to end DACA. The House Border Caucus said that the end of DACA would lead to “cruel and unjustifiable consequences” for young Texans.

As El Paso state Rep. César Blanco, who chairs the caucus, said:

I think it’s counter to the values of Texas. These kids were brought to this country without understanding what was happening. Many of them grew up as Americans in this country and many are active contributors to the economy. 

Quite frankly, I think it’s un-humanitarian for our attorney general to ask for this program to be eliminated. These folks are an important part of the fabric for our Texas culture and our American culture. This is a country of immigrants.

Op-eds

Norman E. Adams, the conservative co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy, wrote this op-ed to Ken Paxton about his threats against DACA. Adams notes that he contributed to Paxton’s campaign and voted for him, but that Paxton’s opposition to DACA is a big mistake:

Evidently you have been convinced that opposing DACA is good for you politically. We did not elect you to practice politics. We elected you to use good judgement, and to make sound decisions that benefit Texans.

Overturning DACA would be bad public policy. As you know, at least 200,000 of these DACA kids are right here in Texas working and contributing as part of our workforce. Thanks to the DACA policy, most of them now have work permits and are legally employed. Employers are relying on them. Most importantly, they are paying taxes and are positively identified!

As you know, these young folks were brought here as innocent children. They have no criminal records. A victory from your lawsuit will convert them to an illegal status. Do you actually want to arrest them, remove them from the only home they know and deport them to a country where they have no family and, in most cases, do not even speak the language?

Deporting them will hurt us. They will no longer pump money into our communities. They will no longer pay taxes, or buy food and clothing and automobiles. What about their car loans, mortgages, or rent? A lot of them have student loans. Do you actually expect them to continue paying those loans?

A blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then and The Dallas Morning News got it right. “Texas is cutting off its nose to spite its face by threatening to waste taxpayer dollars suing the federal government if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not rescinded”….

General Paxton, it is my prayer you will withdraw your threat of this lawsuit. May the good Lord give you the courage to do what is right. These are God’s children.

An editorial at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times described the threat against DACA as an affront to Texas values. As the editorial points out, Ken Paxton is demonizing immigrants in a way that suggests he doesn’t understand what they bring to America. Here’s an excerpt:

DACA brings a small measure of justice and humanity to immigration enforcement. It recognizes and accounts for the innocence of its intended recipients in how they came to be here. It also recognizes that in many if not the vast majority of cases, these immigrants know no other country or customs.

Trying to undo DACA is cruel….[Trump] probably wouldn’t have threatened to end DACA in the first place if it didn’t play to a segment of voters who harbor a cruel streak when it comes to immigrants. Paxton played shamelessly to that crowd with his threat letter, co-signed by nine other states’ attorneys general, all of whom should be ashamed of themselves.

The Texas House Border Caucus’ opinion on this matter deserves a lot more credit than that of Paxton and those other nine attorneys general. The caucus represents border communities directly and deeply affected by immigration issues. Immigration is much more of an abstraction for Paxton, a North Texan. It’s easy for his rich, insular neighbors to get worked up by tales of predatory illegal immigrants, told by predatory politicians. Residents of low-crime border counties know better. They coexist safely and peacefully with immigrants.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s un-humanitarian for our attorney general to ask for this program to be eliminated,” Blanco told Madlin Mekelburg of the El Paso Times. “These folks are an important part of the fabric for our Texas culture and our American culture. This is a country of immigrants.”

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