The San Antonio City Council sat for 3½ hours late last week to hear speakers urge passage of a controversial resolution urging the Texas state legislature to oppose an immigration law similar to the much criticized Arizona SB 1070. The resolution also urged Congress and the President to take up comprehensive legislation on immigration.
Expressing his support, Councilmember Justin Rodriguez said, “We have to be proactive and stop the state legislature.”
The council chambers were crowded with organizations and individuals speaking in support of the resolution. Their size overwhelmed the small number of opponents.
Rosa Rosales, president of LULAC, and her two sons, Gabriel and Miguel, stressed the danger of Texas adopting a law similar to Arizona’s when the legislature meets in January. Two legislators have already drawn up the outline of a bill.
The Arizona law has been criticized for endangering and profiling people of color and causing immigrants to withdraw further into the shadows. The Arizona SB 1070 allows someone to be stopped for “reasonable suspicion” rather than “probable cause” – a difference widely open to unclear interpretation.
Rosales stated that the Arizona bill violates the Constitution and affects everyone negatively. She listed many cities that have passed resolutions opposing the Arizona bill SB 1070. Among them are Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, St. Paul, Brownsville, Boston, El Paso, and Boulder, Colorado. Some cities are also boycotting Arizona.
She stated bluntly, “The law is racist. Latinos and people of color are under attack and we are offended.”
Chief of San Antonio Police McManus strongly opposed the Arizona law and expressed his support for the resolution. He said the Arizona Organization of Police Chiefs as well as other chiefs around the country agree. Police chiefs are concerned that such a law will impair the police relationship with the community, and people will not talk to the police. As a result crimes will go unreported. In addition, the added burden of immigration enforcement on local police could cause many serious crimes to go ignored.
A group of at least 50 activists from Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) came forward to speak on the resolution. They represented a number of churches in the community. On their behalf, Rev. Walter D’Heedene talked about using workshops and sharing as way to “hear” each other. Of concern were issues of anger, hate and polarization of communities not caused by the resolution but by “scapegoating” of immigrants. He urged a more humane law unmotivated by fear and police enforcement.
“We need to protect the oppressed,” he explained. “Some say it is not our business. But it is, since a similar law is currently being drafted for the Texas State Legislature.” We need to do more than this resolution, and more to bring the conversation from fear to hope.
Christina Castro, of COPS from St. Henry’s Parish, said she experienced racial profiling in California. That was when the struggle for fairness became a realization to her.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce supported the resolution. Texas state representatives Michael Villareal and Trey Martinez Fisher, along with U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, wrote or spoke in support of the resolution.
Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of Temple Rodfei Shalom and four other members of the Jewish-Latino Dialogue Group spoke about Jewish immigration and urged the passage of the council resolution.
Antonio Diaz, representing the Texas Indigenous Council, spoke about the need for restoration of indigenous people’s rights to cross over borders. He said, “It is time to tear down law 1070.”
The Inner City Advocates of Judge Albert Pena Jr spoke of the plight of 4 million orphaned children harmed after their parents were deported. He also noted the recent March in Washington D.C., demanding humane solutions that stop the ICE raids, the splitting of families and criminalizing of immigrants and those who help them.
Lydia Camarillo, who had recently come from the National Latino Conference, praised the resolution, the council and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. “You are about to make history,” she said.
The resolution passed 8-3 on June 24th, and the council agreed to have it sent to the state legislature.