The May 1 protests that took place all across the United States on Monday encompassed many different issues, including rights for women, the LGBTQ community, workers, and immigrants. In Austin, activists fought against Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) – a law that, if passed, would make the state of Texas more dangerous and unwelcoming for undocumented immigrants. For more than nine hours, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, a pastor, and about two dozen activists staged a sit-in at Gov. Greg Abbott’s office and called for him to veto SB 4, which passed both the House and the Senate recently.
Despite police telling the protesters – many of whom wore matching shirts with SB 4 crossed out – not to block the doors, they obstructed two lobby entrances. “It’s important for us to block both doors to show the governor we’re not afraid,” Mexican-American Councilman Casar said, according to the New York Times.
The protest came to an end after state troopers arrested more than 20. A magistrate then charged them with criminal trespass, which can result in as many as 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. But what really worries this group of activists is the repercussions of SB 4, which intends to quell sanctuary cities – normally defined as a city where cops do not cooperate with federal immigration officials. But it doesn’t stop there.
The bill – which has earned comparisons to Arizona’s “show me your papers” law (SB 1070) and America’s Voice has called the “worst piece of anti-immigrant state legislation” – would allow police officers to ask children about their immigration status, encourage racial profiling because of a “show me your papers” clause, and give law enforcement permission to target the most vulnerable undocumented immigrants at homeless shelters and domestic violence centers. SB 4 also intends to force anti-immigrant policies onto all officials. Failure to comply with the provisions laid out in SB 4 could result in a penalty of $1,500 for the first time, and then $25,500 for a subsequent offense.
But with as much as everyone has to lose, Casar and other activists remain dedicated to fighting SB 4.