Group protests new immigration bills
An estimated 300 people gathered in front of the Texas state capitol in Austin for a rally supporting the Latino community and immigrant rights.
The rally was held in response to immigration legislation proposed for the 82nd legislative session. Opponents have denounced the bills as imitations of SB 1070, the immigration bill passed in Arizona last year. However, supporters of these bills say they are necessary.
The rally began at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church and continued onto the front steps of the capitol building. Members of the crowd, that included a number of University of Houston students, chanted slogans along the way.
Once in front of the capitol building, the crowd chanted, “We are students,” and “We are family,” as they waited to listen to a panel of speakers before participating in group meetings with their state representatives.
UH Sociology junior Brendan Laws participated in the rally.
“Immigration is a big part of my life. My father was an immigrant,” Laws said. “It just connects to the history of my family. I’m here to tell them how the bills will destroy my community and family.”
The proposed bills include HB 197, a bill that requires proof of citizenship in order to work in Texas and would charge employers with a Class A misdemeanor if they’re found to have employed undocumented immigrants.
Another bill that has been introduced, HB 17, allows police officers to arrest someone without a warrant if the officer suspects that the individual is undocumented, and if the officer believes the person is committing or has committed another offense.
Kevin Taylor, principal of Henry F. Waskow High School from Belton, Texas was in front of the capitol building with a group of students when the rally took place. Taylor supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but believes that the federal government’s laws should be enforced.
“There’s a legal way to enter our country,” Taylor. said “Do it legally.”
State Rep. Dan Huberty, District 127 agrees that the federal government’s laws pertaining to illegal immigration should be enforced.
“Unless the federal government does something, we have to enforce our borders. Sometimes it creates animosity,” Huberty said. “I get both sides of the argument.”
HB 464, a bill proposed by Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, District 17, is another of the bills being protested.
The bill, which would repeal the Texas DREAM Act, would directly affect undocumented University of Houston students if passed.
The Texas DREAM Act was signed into law by Governor Perry and allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.
“We will fight it to make sure the Texas DREAM Act is not repealed,” Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, District 143, a UH alumna, said. “We know that education is the key.”
Jeronimo Cortina, UH assistant professor of political science, weighed in on the situation of undocumented college students.
“Why penalize these kids who were brought here without their consent? It just doesn’t make sense,” Cortina said. “The state is not paying for them. They are residents of the state. They pay property taxes,” Cortina said. “The only thing they don’t have is their migratory status.”
English junior Alejandro Caballero attended the rally in support of a friend.
“The new bills would destroy a lot of dreams,” Caballero said. “Many people would be devastated and America would be missing out on a lot of talent.”
Huberty believes that expanding the number of work visas and green cards and shortening the waiting time could achieve a practical solution for the illegal immigration problem. This would enable more people to immigrate into the country legally, Huberty said, noting that this solution is rarely talked about in the media.
“There are people who want to come here legally to work,” Huberty said. “We need to give them that ability.”