Political divide deepens over immigration law as special session starts

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Despite the fact that the state’s sunset legislation was a top priority during the start of the special session at the Capitol, lawmakers and activists spent much of the week talking about immigration law.

Senate Bill 4 bans sanctuary cities in Texas, though its creation was met with disagreement.

Immigration law was not on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session call, but that has not stopped conversation about repealing the legislation.

“We wanted to make sure that SB 4 and the negative consequences of SB 4 stay front row and center during the special session, State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said during a press conference this week.

“We know that law enforcement has said it’s going to make our communities less safe. We know that there are going to be negative impacts in terms of creating fear in immigrant communities. We know that there is already fear in the communities that we represent.”

Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, added, “Why is Texas taking the lead on anti-immigrant bills, already knowing that history will repeat itself?”

House Democrats filed a bill to repeal SB 4.

Fifteen young activists held a “Quinceñaera at the Capitol” on the second day of the session to protest what one protester called “the most discriminatory and hateful law in recent history.”

15 young women participated in a "Quinceañera at the Capitol" to protest Senate Bill 4, Texas' ban on sanctuary cities. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

That protester, Magdalena Juarez, 17, stood in front of the Capitol to “take a stand” against SB 4, delivering messages to lawmakers at their offices.

“SB 4 is not only an attack on immigrant communities, it threatens the lives of all people of color,” Juarez said.

“I was in support of the sanctuary city bill that looks like it’ll be working well,” Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, said in response. Anderson said he would vote against any repeal of the controversial immigration law.

“They’ve identified these folks in McLennan County, which is a surprise,” he said. Anderson said authorities identified a human trafficking ring in the Waco area while lawmakers were working on the bill.

“There’s always a flip side to everything and so I could see where somebody would say they might be targeted, but really that’s not the case,” Anderson added. “And with the system we have, if there’s abuse going on, it’ll be pointed out, and it’ll be dealt with.”

Anderson explained there were 50 illegal immigrants in the McLennan County jail — information he obtained from the sheriff’s office.

“The [illegal immigrants] that we have in jail currently, it’s Honduras, it’s Canada, with drug issues, and so it’s all over, largest percentage of course is Hispanic from Mexico because we’re right on that border,” he said. “But it’s not a race thing.”

SB 4 takes effect on Sept. 1.

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