AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council Member Greg Casar along with nearly two dozen other people were arrested and cited for criminal trespassing after they staged a sit-in to protest Senate Bill 4 at Gov. Greg Abbott’s office Monday afternoon.
Immigrant community members, faith leaders and other elected officials were at the Texas State Capitol to protest the so-called sanctuary cities bill, which is expected to head to Abbott’s desk in a few weeks. The protest was organized to urge Abbott to veto the legislation when it gets to his desk. But if he does sign the bill into law, the group says they will continue with protests in the streets.
Once the protesters were removed from the building, the group started chanting: “Down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation.”
Casar says even though they got kicked out of the building, Casar hopes Abbott gets the message loud and clear. “Through this law, he [Abbott] cannot coerce us into betraying our immigrant communities, into turning our police against our immigrant communities. And even though this law tries to criminalize elected officials and even remove them from office for fighting for immigrants, we’re not going to be coerced and bullied into doing that,” says Casar.
Despite passionate pleas from Democrats to stop SB 4, Republicans had the votes to push the measure through last week. During the heated debate, supporters managed to beef up the bill from the original version. House members approved an amendment from Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, that gives police more leeway to ask about a person’s legal status. It lets a police officer ask about a person’s immigration status while they’re being detained. Some departments currently limit officers to asking those questions only after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime.
Casar was arrested and cited with a Class B misdemeanor for criminal trespassing. Casar has been a vocal supporter of various immigration issues in Austin. In December, he drafted a measure—that was passed by the Austin City Council—to approve spending city money on legal services for immigrants living in Austin. Casar told KXAN then the money would be used to defend documented and undocumented immigrants.