Regardless of legal decisions, immigrants vow to fight SB4

Bulletin: A federal appeals court blocked SB 4 from implementation following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on March 19.

The Supreme Court of the U.S. has decided to allow Texas’ latest anti-immigrant law, Senate Bill 4, to go into effect on March 18, 5:00 p.m. EST.

SB4 will give any Texas law enforcement officer the authority to stop and deport anyone anywhere in the state if they perceive them to be in the U.S. illegally. SB4 was passed in a special Texas legislative session last November, and court challenges have gone back and forth since Governor Greg Abbott signed it in December.

March 9, 2024, march and rally in Austin, Texas. (WW Photo: Gloria Rubac)

The power to enforce immigration laws has historically fallen to the federal government and federal agents. Last week, SCOTUS extended a pause on the law from taking effect after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Texas. They could have issued another order extending the stay of the law or could have told Texas to go ahead with it.

Earlier in March, the Texas Civil Rights Project explained that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay that suspended a lower court decision to block SB4 from going into effect while the case is being litigated. In response, civil rights groups filed an application to the Supreme Court to vacate the stay. The Fifth Circuit has stated that it will expedite consideration of the appeal, and oral arguments have been set for April 3 in New Orleans. (tinyurl.com/4sxuhcz6)

The people are fighting back

Regardless of the court outcomes, immigrant activists as well as civil rights organizations have vowed to continue the struggle both politically and legally against this racist and polarizing border law. 

The Border Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso, Texas, organized people from El Paso to the Rio Grande Valley, from Odessa to Houston, and over 1,000 Texans marched and rallied in Austin to demand the repeal of the unconstitutional SB4 and the end of Operation Lone Star. (facebook.com/hashtag/sb4)

We will resist Gov. Abbott’s ongoing crusade against immigrants, people of color, asylum seekers, and refugees. Texans are more united than ever to resist hate, racism, and white supremacy,” a BNHR spokesperson told the rally in front of the state capitol.

American Gateways, El Paso County, American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Texas Civil Rights Project sued the State of Texas immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill.

Jennifer Babaie, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico said: “The people and communities that this law targets are strong, resilient and will defend themselves and their rights. We are proud to represent them in court. We urge the federal government to join us in suing Texas to defend our communities, our civil rights and the constitution. We demand the Department of Justice intervene quickly. Any delay abdicates our immigration laws, encourages lawlessness and subjects our communities to racism and our wellbeing to cowardice.”

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and founded by labor activist Cesar Chavez, has been organizing against SB4. They have over 8,000 members in many of the small towns along the South Texas border with Mexico. On March 8 they filed a lawsuit against SB4 citing its detrimental impact on immigrant communities and its promotion of racial profiling.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is representing LUPE in the lawsuit. Fátima Menéndez, the lead counsel, told Border Report that they are suing because LUPE believes Texas is interfering with the federal immigration system, and they allege it violates the Constitution.  (tinyurl.com/yc4cwekz)

A March press conference was held in Houston by one of the most active immigrant rights organizations, Immigrant Families and Students in Struggle or FIEL (Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en Lucha). Director Cesar Espinosa announced that whatever the courts decide, FIEL will continue to educate immigrant communities on their rights and organize opposition to racist laws. Speakers included a state representative, a religious leader, a community activist and FIEL’s attorney.

“We know we have a long road ahead of us, but with knowledge and unity, we will prevail,” Espinosa said.

While Republicans praise SB4 as an answer to the failures of the Joe Biden Administration to address immigration and border security, Democrats say the law will contribute to racial profiling. What neither bourgeois party admits is that the reason so many migrants are coming across the border is because they are fleeing the instability and violence U.S. policies under both parties have introduced into their home countries. 

Civil rights groups fear that asylum seekers who are already in immigration proceedings, but might be encountered without their papers, could still be caught in the net of SB4, arrested and deported. Know Your Rights workshops are being held around Texas by activists as well as state representatives. Organizers have advised residents that if SB4 is implemented, they have the right, if stopped, to not answer any questions and to ask for a lawyer.

What all activists must understand is that every worker, regardless of status, has rights, including the right to work for livable wages without fear. Workers united will never be defeated!

Gloria Rubac

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Gloria Rubac
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