What immigrants and their advocates need to watch for in the Texas Legislature

native American dance during SB4 rally in San Antonio

By Calasia Haynes and Sarah Grace Villarreal for NOWCastSA

Immigrants and their advocates have much to be wary of when the Texas Legislature convenes in January, 2019.

“We anticipate another Legislative Session where immigration will play a role,” said Luis Figueroa, Legislative Policy Director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, during in a briefing to the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in November.

The big policy threats are the state’s enforcement of immigration laws, he said, reminding that 2017’s Senate Bill 4, also known as the Sanctuary Cities, or “Show me your papers” law encouraged local law enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement and created some incentives and threats for universities, local jurisdictions if they discourage people from enforcing immigration laws.

Another  huge threat, he said, is the federal Immigration Nationality Act, also known as 287(g), which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to deputize state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law. Figueroa said the Legislature “is looking into making these arrangements easier to enter into, which would blur the line between local and federal enforcement even further, creating more fear reporting crimes, finding someone to go to when you feeling victimized, or even being a witness to a crime.”

Figueroa said immigrant advocates may have to fight to defend the law inn one area where Texas led the nation in compassion for undocumented students, or DREAMers.

Texas was the first state in 2001 to pass in-state tuition for undocumented students, but the law came under attack in 2015 and in 2017 and is expected to be vulnerable again in 2019.

Watch video of Figueroa's comments here.

Several other groups also gave updates on immigration issues during the November IWC meeting, which NOWCastSA recorded on video. Watch the full video by clicking here or scroll down to jump to different organizations' reports.

San Antonio Stands, talked about their progress getting city and county law enforcement to adopt so-called “cite-and-release” programs to keep people out of jail. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2105

Joyce Hamilton, a co-founder of the Angry Abuelas and Tias in the Rio Grande Valley gave an update on her group’s work: Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2193

Christina Mendez with P16+ talked about how her organization is helping dreamers transition into college and other education needs. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2622

Ann Helmke said many attendees at the Parliament of World Religions promised to come to the border and walk one-to-one with asylum-seekers in the caravan. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2679

Olga Kauffman gave an update on the group, Reform Immigration For Texas Alliance. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2824

Raices gave an update on its Bus Station Project. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=2953

Tino Gallegos, the Immigration Liaison for the City of San Antonio, announced he will be leaving the position soon. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=3243

Update from the Migrant Center for Human Rights. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=3792

Drew Galloway with Move Texas, talked about the number of young people who registered and got out to vote in the Nov. 6 general election. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=4050

Interfaith Welcome Coalition has distributed 17,187 Backpacks this year as of Oct. 31. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=4461

Mennonite Pastor John Garland talked about Hospitality and Hospitality Training. Watch:  https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=4501

Sr. Susan Mika of the Benedictine Sisters gave news updates in the immigration newsletter she compiles. Watch: https://youtu.be/kxwuRbQ9eAs?t=5060