In advance of the President's speech, immigrant families and advocates for refugees marched to the state capitol. They voiced opposition to legislation they say will hurt families and will continue to spread fear across Texas.
The march up congress to the state capitol was part of campaign called Texas Together. A coalition of pro-immigration groups bused in supporters from San Antonio, El Paso, Houston and the metroplex. Among those taking part was a flag draped Jalyn Castro. The 11-year-old from Arlington says she marched for her father, an undocumented immigrant, who now lives in fear of being caught up in deportation raids.
"It’s been very fearful because not too long ago my mom went to California for a business trip and it was only me, my dad, my brother and my sisters, and we always wanted to go everywhere but we couldn't and that slowed us down, because my dad can’t drive because if he gets pulled over he is going to get taken away so my brother has to drive us now whenever my mom is not here, so that’s very scary for me because I don’t want anything to happen to my dad because he is really important to my life,” said Castro.
The main focus of the rally was Senate Bill 4. The legislation, which cleared the Senate and is pending in the House, would outlaw sanctuary city policies in Texas. It would also allow for the prosecution of local officials who refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. Organizers admit the current fight is a distraction from efforts to achieve greater reform.
"Fix the problem, fix the process, you know and you wouldn't have these issues, if you would allow these people to apply correctly and not charge them an abundant amount of money and the process takes years, in some cases 10, 12,15 years, they lose hope in their society so that’s why they want to come here, because in America the way we’ve known it that’s what we provide is hope for these things,” said Maria Aguirre with the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education.
SB 4, and much of the legislation this group is against, most likely will end up on the desk for his signature, but organizers stress the fight does not end there.
"The overall message is, to keep fighting. Make your voice heard, make your voice stronger. Bring more people into the argument; the only way policy is going to change is if people demand it,” said State Rep. Chris Turner the Chairman of the House Democrat Caucus.
Staying engaged, for those at the Texas Together rally, involved visiting state lawmakers. Each visit involved a different voice but came with a similar plea made by Castro.
"I would tell them, I don’t care what race they are, I don’t care what color you are, I just want you to be happy. And you get to the United States for a reason, you came to the United States to be free, this is why it’s called the land of the free and the home of the brave that’s why most people come here, to be free, they don’t want to be captivated,” said Castro.
The House version of SB 4 is being drafted by State Rep Charlie Geren ( R ) Fort Worth. Some modifications to what came out of the Senate are expected. Another bill, HB 2191 filed by state Rep. Tony Dale ( R ) Cedar Park would block the awarding grants to state and local agencies that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials. The county portion of House Bill 2191 would be limited to counties that have a population exceeding one million