As “Las Mañanitas” blared, 15 young women dressed in colorful gowns, and some with tiaras on their heads, walked up the steps of the Texas State Capitol as attendees cheered. In almost every way, it looked like their quinceañera. But the young women – who wore sashes with powerful messages, like No Profiling, Equality, and Love, written on them – did more than just celebrate their culture on the steps of the building in Austin. They also protested Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) – a draconian law that aims to shut down sanctuary cities, which will go into effect on September 1. With Wednesday’s event – titled Quinceañeras at the Capitol and hosted by Jolt – they drew attention to how the bill will negatively impact immigrant communities.
“The idea for Quinceañeras at the Capitol came from one of our volunteers,” Tania Mejia, Jolt’s communications director, told Remezcla through email. “She had been going to the Capitol for rallies and events against SB4 and saw young women taking quinceañera photos at the Capitol. We thought that this event would be a great way to show people that this is our home, celebrate our culture, and send the message that young Latinas are standing up to the ongoing attacks on our community by our elected officials who work at the Capitol.”
In early May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 into law over a Facebook video. The moment came without any warning, as some prepared for work the next day or put their children to sleep. The harmful bill will do more than just quash sanctuary cities; it will also encourage racial profiling because of a “show me your papers” clause, it allows police officers to ask children about their immigration status, and puts a target on vulnerable undocumented immigrants at homeless shelters and domestic violence centers.
Given how much is at stake, the 15 quinceañeras knew they needed to speak out. The young women took turns taking the mic and explaining why SB 4 would be so damaging to their communities. They also danced to two songs – K’naan, Residente, Riz MC, and Snow Tha Product’s “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” and Los Tigres del Norte’s “Somos Más Americanos. 17-year-old Maggie Juárez choreographed the dances, and for her, SB 4 is a deeply personal issue.
“Both my parents are immigrants, as well as most of my family,” she told Remezcla in a phone call. “I’m first generation, so it’s just mainly the fact that my parents and my community are getting discriminated against and are getting racially profiled for something they can’t really help. They can’t help the way they look, how they were born, and I don’t feel it’s fair, especially because it’s specifically targeting one community. We’re just being disrespected in our own homes, and it’s not something that sat right with me.”
Over the course of about an hour, these young women stood up for themselves, their parents, and their communities. They then went inside the capitol and handed out presents to the politicians who have actively fought SB 4 and delivered messages to those who hadn’t.
Meet a few of them below:
Viridiana Sánchez, No Profiling
“I want every Latino here to know that we are 11 million, 40 percent of the population, here in Texas,” she told the crowd. “So if these racist politicos think we’re going to come back down from where we came from, we’re not, because our ancestors have worked way too hard for us to be where we are.”
Emelyn Macías, Equality
“As a proud Latina, I can say that SB 4 discriminates the Latino community,” she said. “This land is meant for everyone to have equal rights. What SB 4 is doing is taking our rights away… It’s a right for Latinos to have the same employment opportunities, social benefits, and health care as others. We tend to hear a lot in the media many politicians talking about equal rights for everyone. It’s 2017, and it’s as if segregation and racism just keeps getting worse. Laws like SB 4 violates Latinos’ rights based on the color of their skin. This is attacking our community, but we will fight back.”
Alexandra López, No Violence
“I’m standing against violence,” she said. “SB 4 is a law that will make our community afraid to report crimes. Already, we have seen Latinas too afraid to report rape because they are scared [of] being deported. To all of these Latinas out there, know this: You are not alone. We are standing with you.”
Julia Pierce, Family Unity
“I stand for families,” Julia stated. “The quinceañera is a celebration of girls coming of age and transforming into a woman. SB 4 has the potential of tearing families like ours apart. As Latinas, our families are a source of strength, love, and security. We will not let our families be put in danger, and we will not let them be taken away.”
Maggie Juárez, No Hate
“We are here to take a stand against Senate Bill 4, the most discriminatory and hateful law in recent history,” Maggie said on the steps. “When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on May 7, he disrespected my community. He put a lot of Texas in danger. SB4 is not only an attack on immigrant communities; it threatens the lives of all people of color. When SB 4 goes into effect on September 1, it will allow law enforcement to ask people who look foreign for their documentation. It will force public officials to enact Trump’s mass deportation agenda and may make some victims of crime too scared of the law to seek help. The bottom line is SB 4 makes simply being brown illegal…
“Today I stand for myself, I stand for all of you, I stand for all undocumented people, for all Latinos and for all people of color. I stand for my parents who immigrated here and will not let hateful policy tell them that they don’t belong.”