Since President Donald Trump took office in January, the one thing everyone seems to talk about immigration and the border wall. After the signing of Texas' controversial Senate Bill 4 days ago, we may now live with another wall between Texas democrats and republicans in Austin.
Governor Greg Abbott signed the controversial sanctuary cities bill Sunday, but not before months of debate that culminated in a grueling 16-hour last minute attempt to stop it.
El Paso State Representative Cesar Blanco says among other things, SB4 allows police to ask for your citizenship papers when they pull you over.
Blanco says, "It was a big fight, a long fight. Unfortunately, we didn't come out victorious. Now, for someone who looks like me, the officer can ask if I'm here legally or illegally, and that turns into racial profiling. Now we have this bill that moves us into a very dark history in Texas.”
Blanco tried to tack on 30-amendments of his own to SB4. Even amendments that appealed to Republican ideology were shut down. Blanco saying, "I had a religious freedom amendment. A Catholic police officer has the ability to say 'I don't want to comply with this.' Republicans didn't vote for that. Republicans have demonstrated that they have become racist and I'm not afraid to say that. That's what this bill reflects." He adds how Republicans have conveniently passed legislation that is prejudice against the LGBT community saying, “It’s hypocritical of this republican party in this state to discriminate against the LGBT community, but for latinos and immigrants in this community, there’s a different standard. What we’ve seen in the last 2-weeks, a conservative court has ruled that this state has discriminatory policies. One, in the congressional redistricting; two, in the Texas house redistricting; and three, with voter ID.”
Blanco says the issue is personal for him, having served in the military, and being pulled over and once asked if he was “legal,” saying “I’ve experienced this. When I was serving in the military, and I came home on deployment, Border Patrol agents approached me and asked for my papers. I wasn’t in uniform, and I pulled out my military ID. And I understand that they’re doing their job, but that affects people. Because I’m Hispanic and I look Hispanic, I was asked that question. After being in uniform and defending our country and coming home, to be asked that question whether I’m here legally or not is insulting.”
Melissa Lopez is an immigration attorney. She’s worked with migrants and refugees during the Obama Administration and now, the Trump Administration. Lopez says, "There's just been a shift in attitude. I've heard border patrol agents and ice agents say they can finally do their job. They feel like they've been handcuffed to a certain extent under the Obama administration and now the handcuffs are off."
We compared the two administrations. From January to April 2015, President Obama deported 62,000 people. January to April of 2017, Trump deported 54,000. But the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants has more than doubled since last year, and that's before SB4.
Lopez says, "There was a sense of humanity in the way things were done under the Obama Administration. You know, we understand that we're going to tear apart a family."
That's where Lopez says the Trump Administration is making her job more difficult. There's now a backlog of immigration cases that look like they could speed through the court system. Lopez says this leads to many either being detained too long or sent back too quickly. She says, "Regardless of your immigration status, you're still a human being first."
On the national level, Congressman Beto O'rourke is dealing with the same problem Blanco is at the state level: a Republican-controlled congress. O’Rourke says immigration laws have gone unchanged for 30 years and could be the way to combat Senate Bill 4. O'Rourke saying, “Nationally, we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And what that means is that we recognize that we are a country of laws. We recognize there is a correct path for people to take who want to immigrate to this country, who want to join their families. Who want to work in the US economy. Right now, we are 30-years after that last review of those comprehensive laws, and so we’re making it very hard for us to live by our values and to ensure that we are a safe country. A safe state and safe community.”
O’Rourke adds that Senate Bill 4 will lead to untrust between El Pasoans and the police saying, “Police chiefs in the state of Texas all say that SB4 makes our communities less safe. As people fear coming forward to report a crime, serve as a witness, testify in a trial, because they’re concerned local law enforcement will prosecute illegal immigration laws, then we get less reporting to police, our neighborhoods are less safe, our families are more vulnerable. All of us, whether we’re native born, immigrant, or undocumented.”
But whether it's in Washington, in Austin, or here in El Paso, Blanco says it starts with YOU... the voter. Blanco saying, "As a democrat and a latino, I'm going to make sure that we do everything that we can on the floor, legislatively, and if we fail there, then in our community. And the best way that we can fight this is through our vote." He adds,
Since Senate Bill 4’s passing, counties - including are own - are considering lawsuits against the state. However, in a highly unusual move, the state beat many of those lawsuits to the punch, already filing against the city of Austin, Travis County, and the Travis County Sheriff. Senate Bill 4 officially goes into effect this September.
Faran covered all things politics in the borderland, which included interviews with local leaders and politicians on issues the borderland faced. Before making her way to the borderland, Faran was the nightly news anchor for FOX28 in South Bend, Indiana. She covered all things political there as well, including then Governor Pence's re-election - before he was chosen as Donald Trump's Vice Presidential pick - and every 2016 Presidential candidate's trip through Michiana.