HOUSTON, TX — Mi Familia Vota (MFV) Texas members applauded on Wednesday the Houston City Council vote to join other major Texas cities in the lawsuit to strike down Texas’ new racial profiling law, known as SB 4. The vote followed a day of testimony on Tuesday by Houstonians, including MFV members, who cited the law’s impact on community safety, the city’s economy, the chilling effect on local universities, and the impact on communities of color, regardless of status.
Houston joins Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and other jurisdictions in the lawsuit to stop the law from taking effect September 1.
A federal district court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for next Monday in San Antonio. There is also word that the Trump administration is “interested” in joining the hearing on Monday.
“It’s clear the state Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott have no shame in creating racist laws,” said Carlos Duarte, MFV Texas state director. “Nor does the Trump administration, which sees this law as another opportunity to scapegoat immigrants. But we are fighting back.”
During the public hearing, MFV members spoke of how the new law will damage the “welcoming city” reputation that Houston has nurtured; the tourist economy and the academic reputation of universities that have drawn scholars from around the world; the mixed status families that would be torn apart by a state Legislature that has been called out by federal courts for its discriminatory laws against communities of color.
The threat of racial profiling is real, several people testified.
“I have worked hard to gain respect as a human being,” said Larisa Gonzalez, who works with MFV and youth in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Recently, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas organized Texas religious leaders to sign a letter condemning SB 4 as anti-immigrant and against the principles of the Christian Bible.
“I get discriminated; for speaking two languages, for having an accent. I have been insulted for speaking my native language in public, just because in my culture, speaking to my elders in their native language is sign of respect,” Gonzalez told the city council. “My family, my community, are scared to seek help, to report crimes, to report a rape. They feel the color of their skin or their accent will make them targets of law enforcement. They are scared to be separated from their families.”
Rice University sophomore Carly Frieders, an intern with MFV, told the council she chose Rice because of the university’s and Houston’s acceptance of Hispanic, international and undocumented students, who create an enriching educational experience. The Rice student body, staff, and alumni — more than 1,500 — recently signed a petition to make Rice a sanctuary campus.
“Undocumented and international students will suffer from having our safe environment disrupted by campus police who have no choice but to comply with a law that encourages aggressive immigration enforcement. Hispanic students will suffer from the threat of increased racial profiling on campus and in the city. Students like myself will suffer when the diversity and quality of our student body declines because some of the best and brightest students are repelled by this discriminatory and threatening law,” Frieders said.
Angelica Razo, with MFV, relayed the story of a talented student from Galveston who had applied for a college prep academy in Houston, only to have her parents withdraw the application because driving their citizen daughter to Houston every day was too much of a risk for the undocumented parents.
“Houston cannot boast about its diversity to the rest of the U.S. only to turn its back on the immigrants who gave it that prestigious status. It is hard to celebrate our diversity when we know SB4 will force so many people of color into the shadows,” said Razo said.
Fernanda Duarte, who frequently travels from Mexico to visit her Houston family, noted the loss to the city’s coffers because of SB 4.
“This Senate Bill harms current residents and discourages people from outside the U.S., like me, from coming to visit. Our absence will be your loss in tourism,” Duarte said. “Even though I am here with my tourist visa I feel nervous. I can be pulled over and become a victim of racial harassment. While I have relatively fair skin, the rest of my family does not. It is very painful and aggravating to think that Houston would go back to overt racism,” Duarte added.
“The hostile environment is impacting my own dream that I have had since the 7th grade, to become a member of law enforcement,” said Mariana Grijalva, a University of Houston student. “I want to help protect my community, but this bill would make my community even more afraid of law enforcement and separate families like mine.”
Posted by LLM Digital Media Manager, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.