Hundreds in Austin protest Texas' sanctuary cities law

Hundreds of people in Austin voiced their opposition of Senate Bill 4 also known as the sanctuary cities bill.

A demonstration started at Austin City Hall around noon and moved to the Governor's mansion.

Read Governor Abbott signs bill banning sanctuary cities into law on Facebook

“The governor clearly wants community members to hide in their homes and to not speak out and to be afraid and I think today's demonstration shows that mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are defiant and fighting back,” said Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, District 4.

Senate Bill 4 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott last Sunday. The bill states police chiefs and sheriffs must cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. If they continually refuse to do so they can be charged with a misdemeanor and removed from office.
“It hurts because I know many of these people have called it home for many years, for decades, and it's saddening, but we know what's at the core of it. At the core is racism and at the core of our work is love and community and family,” said Julieta Garibay with United We Dream. 

Read Protesters opposing Texas 'sanctuary city' bill stage sit-in

Abbott said the law only takes aim at violent criminals in the U.S. illegally, but protesters disagree. They cite one very controversial part of the law that allows city and county law enforcement to ask someone's immigration status prior to an arrest.

“I mean, if you just look at the bill it's clearly not true that this has anything to do with public safety. What the bill asks police departments and sheriffs to do, is when anyone is stopped or arrested, for them to be able to have their papers searched, for them to be able to be detained in jails without warrants in order to further the goals of a deportation machine,” Casar said. 

Opponents are comparing SB 4 to Arizona’s SB 1070 law. That law initially required officers to check immigration status when they contact a person and have reasonable suspicion they are undocumented. The Supreme Court ruled against three provisions of the bill in 2012, but upheld the "show me your papers" clause. However, last year Arizona ended the practice as part of a settlement with an immigrants' rights group.

“It's really unfortunate that Texas now has a show me your papers law. It's clearly unconstitutional like Arizona’s show me your papers law was and that's why I'm calling on the City Council to take a vote on Thursday to sue the State of Texas and overturn this unconstitutional law and you'll be seeing cities across the state doing the same thing,” said Casar.

Read Texas backs tough 'sanctuary city' ban as federal push slows

“Their goal is to scare us and our goal as organizers is to say, ‘No, we're united and we're going to fight back,’” Garibay said. 

It is still unclear what kind of cooperation the law will require between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement.

APD said they are working with advisors to figure out which of their policies, if any, need to change.