Fifteen young Latinas wearing brightly-colored gowns and tiaras took to the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin to demand justice for all immigrants.
The beaded dresses made of tulle and lace worn by the protestors are typically worn for a Latina coming-of-age tradition: the Quinceañera, a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday and transition into womanhood. However, these teenage girls were not celebrating—they were protesting SB4, a controversial immigrant enforcement that aims to shut down sanctuary cities signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 7.
According to Jolt Texas, a new political action group that co-organized the protest, “the law makes being undocumented and brown a crime in Texas.” Under the law, “local law enforcement will be able to question the immigration status of residents and will have to aid in the deportation of undocumented Texas.” SB4 goes into effect September 1.
“Texas has become ground zero for the fight for the rights of immigrants and Latinos,” Jolt founder Cristina Tzintzun told NPR. “This last election we saw Mexicans and Latinos demonized and criminalized and really scapegoated. And so we want legislators to know and Trump to know that we won’t sit idly by while legislation of hate is passed. That our communities are going to organize and mobilize.”
“Senate Bill 4 allows local Texas law enforcement officers to request proof of legal residency during any routine detention—for example, a traffic stop,” NPR’s Wayne Goodwyn reported. “Critics dubbed this the show-me-your-papers law. Further, sheriffs and police chiefs could be jailed if they forbid their officers from participating in any immigration enforcement activities.”
During the protest, the 15 activists explained how the draconian law would effect their communities. “I want every Latino here to know that we are 11 million, 40 percent of the population, here in Texas,” Viridiana Sanchez said. “So if these racist politicos think we’re going to come back down from where we came from, we’re not, because our ancestors have worked way too hard for us to be where we are.”
Alexandra Lopez said she was standing against violence. “SB 4 is a law that will make our community afraid to report crimes,” she told the crowd. “Already, we have seen Latinas too afraid to report rape because they are scared [of] being deported. To all of these Latinas out there, know this: You are not alone. We are standing with you.”
“Instead of attacking sanctuary cities, Congress should be listening to their message,” Elizabeth Allen wrote in the LA Times. “Sanctuary cities recognize that that in most cases, deportation is the wrong punishment for illegal immigration, which is a breach of civil, not criminal, law.” Moreover, sanctuary cities continue to fill their purpose as an effective way to reform and strengthen the law.