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Sanctuary city scenes: HB4 protests at the Texas Capitol

Legislative session’s last day marked by scuffles and death threats—by lawmakers—while citizens protested new law

Person holding up sign that reads “Y’all means all” in front of state Capitol
Protest against Texas law banning “sanctuary cities”
Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

House-floor scuffles and death threats aside, the last day of the 85th session of the Texas Legislature was most distinguished by a large and lengthy protest of HB 4, which bans “sanctuary cities” in the state of Texas.

The law includes penalties for law enforcement and other officials if they fail to honor immigration agents’ requests that they hold noncitizen inmates who are subject to deportation, reported the Tribune, which added that the bill also applies to public colleges.

After both houses of the Legislature passed the bill, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law on May 7, a Sunday night, on a live Facebook video.

Austin and Travis County have received attention around the issue, due in part to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s announcement, shortly after she took office in January, that her office would limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The Austin City Council has voted to challenge the law (or, technically, a preemptive suit filed by the Lege).

According to the Austin-American Statesman, the protests were planned ahead of time; those protestors, joined spontaneously by others, “wore red T-shirts, held signs, and chanted, ‘Here to stay’” in the House gallery, briefly shutting down proceedings before being removed.

According to the daily paper, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, reported the protesters to Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the assumption that some might be undocumented. Some Democrats protested that move vociferously, resulting in a physical scuffle on the House floor, the report adds.

According to the Statesman:

Rinaldi [then] said that Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, told him he would ‘get me on the way to my car,’ prompting Rinaldi to respond that he ‘would shoot him in self-defense.’ Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said he heard Rinaldi say of Nevárez that he would ‘put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads.’

Meanwhile, protestors continued to pack the Capitol, according to local NBC outlet KXAN. Outside the building, chants were accompanied by cumbia music and dancing.

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Protest, confrontation, death threat herald end of legislative session [AAS]

Protesters fill Capitol, chanting against sanctuary city legislation [KXAN]

‘Sanctuary cities’ law draws Austin challenge [Curbed Austin]