Austin City Council Member Greg Casar was among 18 protestors who were arrested Monday evening and issued citations for criminal trespassing after staging a sit-in at Governor Greg Abbott's business office.
The group staged a sit-in at the office after a morning protest at the south gate of the Capitol to speak against Senate Bill 4 (SB4).
The bill, which was passed by the Senate in February and the House of Representatives last week, will require all Texas law enforcement honor ICE detainers.
ICE detainers are voluntary requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold someone in jail while their immigration status is investigated. SB4 also allows an officer to ask someone about their immigration status if they are detained, which includes being pulled over for a traffic violation.
Because the House approved amendments to the bill, SB4 will head to a conference committee to work out the differences before being sent to the governor to sign.
Law enforcement officers from around the state have spoken in opposition to SB4, saying it will make communities less safe by damaging police relations with immigrant communities. Many lawmakers, religious organizations and community leaders also oppose the bill, saying it will allow officers to discriminate against immigrants.
Governor Abbott made banning "sanctuary cities" an emergency item during his State of the State address, indicating his plans to support legislation like SB4. But the protestors are asking him to instead veto the bill.
Casar said while that is their request, they doubt the bill will be vetoed.
"It's not true that that veto is the last thing that can stop this law. People of conscious in this community, across this state, people like you are what will defeat this law if we fight it every step of the way," Casar said at the morning protest.
The group then marched to the office located at the corner of 11th Street and San Jacinto to sit, sing and call on the governor to veto the bill.
The DPS Troopers who secure the building told the group it would be closing at 5 p.m. and asked them to leave peacefully. At 5 p.m. some members of the group left, but 25 others sat on the floor and started singing the song "We Rise",
Troopers informed the group they would be cited for criminal trespassing and asked them to leave peacefully, saying they did not want to arrest them, but the protestors sat unmoved.
Eventually, Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu arrived.
Casar said he and the protestors were told because of the capacity of the jail, the magistrate had come to them. The group was processed, received citations, then released.
Council Member Cesar released the following statement on his arrest:
"Today, a group of clergy, elected officials, community leaders and I staged a sit-in at Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office. We demanded that Governor Abbott veto the unconstitutional and anti-immigrant bill known as Senate Bill 4, instead of signing it into law. I did not, and do not, expect that Governor Abbott will do the right thing. Communities across Texas have worked tirelessly for months to stop Senate Bill 4. We will only defeat this dangerous and discriminatory law if we continue to fight it every step of the way.
Senate Bill 4 is just one more example of racist and unconstitutional mandates enacted by Texas’ top leaders and turns local law enforcement into Trump's deportation force. By requiring sheriffs to hold immigrants in their jails for deportation and by allowing police across the state to conduct ‘show me your papers’ searches, the Governor and his cronies are sending a clear message to non-citizen families: ‘we're coming for you.’ This is the most dangerous legislative threat to immigrants in this country.
Throughout our nation's history, many have engaged in similar acts of conscience to bring us closer to a liberty and justice for all. We carried on that tradition in our sit-in against Senate Bill 4. I know that sit-ins are against the law, and I have accepted the consequences. However, I cannot accept the damage anti-immigrant politicians will do to our families through this law, if it is allowed to stand.In an authoritarian manner, Senate Bill 4 also empowers the Attorney General to remove elected officials, like myself, from office, if we refuse to go along with their unjust mandates. Today's action was proof that many of us across Texas, despite the State's coercion, have drawn a line in the sand and declared that we refuse to betray our community. Instead, we fight. We will fight them in the courts, in our halls of government, and by organizing in our communities.”