On the largely ceremonial last day of the Texas state legislative session on Monday, things went south. Protests against Texas’s new “anti-sanctuary cities” bill led a Republican lawmaker to call federal immigration officers and threaten to shoot a colleague following a shuffle on the House floor.
Before the Memorial Day session began, Hundreds of protesters dressed in red filled the seats of the legislative gallery to protest the new sanctuary cities bill signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot on May 7. The law is now one of the most severe in the nation. The bill echoes some of the worst aspects of Arizona’s 2010 “show me your papers” bill, requiring police to determine the immigration of anyone stopped by police for something as insignificant as jaywalking. Even Texas law enforcement groups have come out against the bill, saying that bill will divide a wedge between police and Hispanic communities.
Shortly after the legislative session began, protesters began chanting “Here to stay!” and “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! SB4 has got to go.” Republican leaders stopped the session and asked state troopers to clear the galleries, ending the protest. That’s when Republican Matt Rinaldi decided to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aka ICE.
According to reporting from Time.com,
even after the protest ended, tensions remained high. Rep. Ramon Romero, a Democrat from Fort Worth, said he was standing with fellow Democratic Rep. Cesar Blanco of El Paso when Republican colleague Matt Rinaldi came over and said: “This is BS. That’s why I called ICE.”
Rinaldi’s comment began a heated argument that led to some pushing and shoving on the floor. Then things got nasty. During a heated exchange between Rinaldi and Democrat Poncho Nevarez, Rinaldi reported threatened to shoot Nevarez.
The Texas scuffle may not have gotten quite as heated as those on the floor of the Turkish Parliament earlier this year or last year in the Japanese Parliament, but we’re on our way. Since the 2016 election, increasingly right-wing national and state legislative bodies have moved to pass more aggressive anti-immigrant legislation, bolstered by the Trump organization’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
Pennsylvania is certainly on that track. In February, the PA Senate passed its anti-sanctuary cities bill, SB10. The ACLU of Pennsylvania warned that SB10 would force municipalities to violate the Constitution in order to comply with the law:
Introduced by Senator Guy Reschenthaler of Allegheny County, the legislation, Senate Bill 10, withholds all state grant funding, including grants for 911 service and transportation infrastructure, from local governments that do not follow every “immigration order” from the federal government. It also holds counties liable for damages if they release someone after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a detainer request and the person later commits “injury to person or property.” The bill does not define “injury to person or property.”
ICE detainer requests are requests from ICE to a local government to detain someone for a period of time to allow the federal agency to investigate their immigration status. The detainer requests are not reviewed by a court and are not supported by a finding of probable cause.
Federal case law covering Pennsylvania has held that counties are liable if they illegally detain someone. As a result, 33 counties in Pennsylvania have written policies or practices to not honor ICE detainer requests.
The ACLU’s warning is especially relevant given that immigration orders issued by the Trump organization have routinely been declared unconstitutional in court.
That will not stop the PA Republican Party, however. In April, Philly Republican Martina White introduced a companion bill to SB10, HB28, in the State House. The State House passed a similar bill last year, but the legislative session ended without a vote on the bill. White’s current bill has been referred to the House’s State Government Committee, chaired by our favorite right-wing looney-bird, Daryl Metcalfe. [For our rousing take on Metcalfe, check out our latest episode of Out d’Coup podcast].
A fight will certainly come as Pennsylvania students and community organizations have been vigorously organizing against abusive and punitive anti-immigrant legislation and rhetoric. With a contentious budget season upon us and Republican gubernatorial candidate State Senator Scott Wagner’s going all in with Trump, pledging to make Pennsylvania white…uhhhh…I mean, great, again, we should expect a ramping up of the anti-immigrant and anti-working rhetoric.
What happened yesterday in Texas is a little peak at what’s in store for all of us if we don’t put a stop to anti-immigrant, racist politics that Republicans have been cultivating for decades. Trump has taken the lid off the pressure-cooker, unleashing the alt-right and racists of all sorts. Last week’s deadly attack on a Portland, Oregon train by a known neo-fascist, is an extreme example of newly emboldened racists taking matters into their own hateful hands. But it is part of the same racist package that defines the right-wing dominated Republican agenda.