AFL-CIO and allies mobilize to stop Texas attacks on Latinos, others
Migrants walk along the Rio Grande past recently installed buoys in Eagle Pass, Texas on July 29, 2023. | Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas for The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas State AFL-CIO and a wide-ranging coalition of Latino and civil rights groups, including the National League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), are laying plans to aid and protect brown-skinned and other people threatened with instant arrest, detention and deportation to Mexico from the Lone Star State.

Those plans include a massive LULAC education campaign, to be rolled out today, with materials telling people what their rights are—and who to contact—when and if they’re stopped by newly empowered law enforcers.

And they include, in addition to huge numbers of youth activists, a grand coalition of organizations in Texas, “pushing back against this” in the courts and in elections this fall, State AFL-CIO Organizing Director Ana Gonzalez said. The labor federation and its allies, including Workers Defense and the Texas Civil Rights Project, “plan to incorporate this into our campaign” to oust the law’s backers from their seats in the Republican-dominated legislature.

The threat accelerated when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a party-line 6-3 vote—Republican-named justices for, Democratic-named justices against—let Texas implement its draconian anti-migrant law, SB4. The law’s sponsors, led by right-wing Gov. Greg Abbott and farther-right Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, specifically cited “Hispanic migration” across the Texas-Mexico border.

After being in effect for only nine hours yesterday the law was paused when a three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans put it on hold again. Adding to the problem faced by the racist backers of the draconian measure was an announcement yesterday by Mexico that it will not accept anyone deported by Texas under the law.

LULAC President Domingo Garcia told a Zoom press conference the “Show Me Your Papers Law” turns local police into immigration agents. And they can pick up anyone who’s an “other,” including brown, Black, and Asian residents, both immigrants and citizens, and summarily deport them, he said.

“When you start scapegoating against the ‘other,’ you see terrible things like we saw in the 30s in Nazi Germany.

“You’re going to get rogue sheriffs setting up roadblocks,” as notoriously racist former Phoenix, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio did a decade ago, Garcia predicted. Arpaio’s deputies arrested anyone who even looked like a Latino, regardless of their papers or ethnicity, and threw them into camps in tents in Arizona’s heat.

“I’m a fifth-generation Texan and because of what I look like, I’m liable to be stopped” by cops enforcing SB4, Garcia said. He also predicted tougher “enforcement” in rural and suburban Texas. Texas’s big cities, including Houston—the fourth-most-populous U.S. city–Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio all have significant Spanish-speaking populations.

SB4 was on hold but pending in court when its Republican white nativist backers, Abbott and Paxton, took it up to the High Court justices. They wanted a District Court “stay pending appeal”—the functional equivalent of a temporary injunction–against the law dropped, and the majority agreed. That District Court had tossed SB4, calling it unconstitutional. A similar bill is pending in Georgia.

Except for a highly technical concurrence from Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, the majority-side justices did not explain their reasoning for letting the law resume. Dissenting Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson explained why it shouldn’t. The latter two justices said the law is discriminatory, “will sow chaos,” and is unconstitutional to boot.

“Today’s Supreme Court order…will put U.S. citizens at risk,” even though the obvious targets for SB4 are migrants, specifically those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the AFL-CIO’s Gonzalez said in an interview with People’s World.

“It’s an unconstitutional law and a racist law,” Gonzalez added. “Attacking immigrant communities is attacking working families.” And “the only court to consider the law concluded that it is likely unconstitutional,” added the dissenting duo of justices.

“Texas passed a law that directly regulates the entry and removal of noncitizens and explicitly instructs its state courts to disregard any ongoing federal immigration proceedings,” the two justices explained, quoting a statement from GOP Gov. Abbott.

Upends the balance of power

“That law upends the federal-state balance of power that has existed for over a century, in which the national government has had exclusive authority over entry and removal of noncitizens. The District Court declared Texas’s law amounts to ‘nullification of federal law and authority’—a notion antithetical to the Constitution and that has been unequivocally rejected by the federal courts since the Civil War.

“As the governor of Texas declared, SB4 embodies Texas’s view that its constitutional authority ‘is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary.’”

“Texas can now immediately enforce its own law imposing criminal liability on thousands of noncitizens and requiring their removal to Mexico,” the two justices noted.

“This law will disrupt sensitive foreign relations, frustrate protection of individuals fleeing persecution, hamper active federal enforcement, undermine federal agencies’ ability to detect and monitor imminent security threats, and deter noncitizens from reporting abuse or trafficking.”

The third dissenter, Justice Kagan, was briefer. “The subject of immigration generally, and the entry and removal of noncitizens particularly, are matters long thought the special province of the federal government,” Kagan wrote, citing one case from 12 years ago and another from 1876. “Given that established understanding, I would not allow Texas Senate Bill 4 to go into effect.”

Many sheriffs in Texas also have problems with the racist law. The Sherriff’s office in Eagle Path, Texas, for example, said in a statement that they have no guidance on how to implement the law. The office said they object to piling onto them yet another responsibility – the responsibility to monitor federal law when they are already inadequately staffed. As a result of having no information on how they are expected to implement the law, the sheriff’s office there said its staff have been instructed to do nothing.

During the 9-hour period that the law was in effect, there were no reports from anywhere in Texas that anyone had actually been arrested for violating the law.

If the history of prior attempts to introduce laws like this is any indication, the swelling opposition to the law that we see already is only the beginning. When Arizona tried this same right-wing scheme five years ago it spurred a massive movement of youth and other activists against the law who not only led a movement to defeat it but continued to work in the election that followed where Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Arizona. The right wing in Texas makes a serious mistake if they think that riling up the right-wing base will just stop there. It will, and already has, spurred a movement by very broad forces that can defeat them and last until the election when that movement will defeat right wingers running for office.

The right wing in Texas claims that the law, which would allow police to set up traffic stops to pull brown-skinned people out of cars regardless of their citizenship status, is designed to allegedly protect the country from dangerous drug cartels.

The law is in direct conflict with existing federal laws that give the federal government the power to deport people found to be in violation of U.S. law. But those federal laws do not allow deportation unless the individual involved has a full hearing in the U.S. courts. Under no circumstances would a racist cop or any other officer of the law be able to make a decision at a traffic stop that someone deserves deportation.

The law, activists point out, is essentially a clear violation of the rights of not just immigrants but of all Americans.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.