Austin City Council member brought to tears during emotional immigration discussion

"A Day Without Immigrants"  -- basically a strike intending to demonstrate how important immigrant workers are to the community, many of those that gathered at City Hall Thursday had taken the day off of work.

"We're just here to talk our rights and make sure that...we're not trying to do violence, we're not going to hurt anybody," one demonstrator said. 

Meanwhile the emotional issue was playing out inside City Hall.

Council Member Greg Casar was fighting for the expansion of an existing contract with Catholic Charities of Central Texas, adding $200,000 for immigrant legal services.  Casar considered it an emergency item based on what's been happening with ICE.  

"This is one important step.  This is one small down payment on the beginning of what it is that we have to do," Casar said.

Justin Estep, an immigration attorney with Catholic Charities of Central Texas says the funds would help with naturalization representation, assisting immigrants applying for DACA and more.

"Asylum, temporary protective status, defense of deportation, as well as family-based immigration," Estep said.

But not everyone was on board.

"To give away this money to help people stay in this country that are not documented is a disgrace to this city.  And I say again for our City Council to stand out there on the streets advocating for people to break the laws of the United States of America is a disgrace to this city," said citizen Sharon Blythe.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair, now the lone conservative on council said Casar's request is an appropriate role for charities, not the city.  She proposed an amendment that would have required much less city money and would have called on the community to raise the rest..  She also mentioned that fear is on both sides of the issue.  She says many Austinites are afraid of illegal immigrants committing crimes. 

Casar accused Troxclair of deliberately misleading to score points on the vulnerable.

"I totally understand that you and I can disagree about immigration policy.  But do not -- and you will be called out in this chamber -- do not spread lies and mis-information that people that have committed particular crimes are not being punished and that people are in danger from those folks.  Because the fact of the matter is those people can be prosecuted by our District Attorney and treated in the criminal justice system just like anyone else," Casar said.

The exchange brought Troxclair to tears.

"I could have sat up here and said the same things about my colleague that he is only out to score political points, that he is lying...but I didn't because I want to maintain that level of professional decorum and set an example for our community of how to treat each other," Troxclair said.

The immigration funding passed with Troxclair the only dissenting vote.

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