Local Organizers Continue Push for Immigrants’ Rights

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(From left) Sean Rivera, Rick Treviño, and Cole Harvey shout with their fists in the air during the protest against SB4.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) Sean Rivera, Rick Treviño, and Cole Harvey chant during a downtown protest against SB 4.

When Jessica Azúa heard that President Donald Trump is weighing a phaseout of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, her immediate response was to call her mother.

“I needed to let everything out, because the following day I needed to be ready,” Azúa said. “I have a lot of emotions, and I am trying to channel that energy, anger, and fear into action.”

Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), the so-called “sanctuary cities bill,” is halted for now, following U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s preliminary injunction to prevent key components of the legislation from going into effect. It awaits review by federal courts, which will have the final say on the law’s fate.

President Trump is expected to make a decision about DACA by Tuesday, a deadline set by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and attorneys general from several other states threatening to sue the administration over the program. Texas is urging President Trump to end the Obama-era program that currently has aided 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States as small children.

Azúa is a so-called Dreamer and a state immigration organizer with the Texas Organizing Project, a statewide group working to advance racial and economic justice. It was one of several groups who arrived at Milam Park on Friday afternoon to march in protest against the provisions of SB 4 and potential changes to DACA.

Azúa said that the rally was organized because the ruling on SB 4 is preliminary, and she and others want to let local and state leaders know that “they aren’t going to stop and are going to keep fighting,” as the case goes through the federal courts.

A group of around 60 people holding signs that read “We won’t let hate infect our state,” and “Fight ignorance, not immigrants” made its way to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s office where they gathered, filling one lane of Navarro Street while chanting, “This is what community looks like!”

As the crowd took a left onto Travis Street en route to City Hall, San Antonio bike patrol officers met them and asked participants to move onto sidewalks. They shouted back: “Whose streets? Our streets!” As the marchers refused to move, they were corralled to the side by officers, who did not allow them to proceed until they agreed to move onto the sidewalks.

Police help protestors against SB4 stay safe on the sidewalk.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Police officers herd protesters against SB 4 onto the sidewalk.

Alicia Perez, a local immigration attorney, told the Rivard Report that she wavers between experiencing “great hope and great depression” when it comes to the status of immigrants in the United States. She hoped the march would bring attention to how laws that limit immigrants’ status are negatively impacting Bexar County citizens.

“I feel like this is an opportunity, and I feel hopeful that we can either create or capitalize on our momentum so that San Antonio will to finally stand up and declare that it is going to protect its mixed-status community and be a sanctuary city,” Perez said.

Representatives from RAICES, Pax Christi San Antonio, and MOVE San Antonio also participated in the march.

Diego Mancha Dominguez is a Dreamer who said that he took time to march on behalf of those who were unable to join the demonstration. He noted that the route passed by construction workers and hotels in the area that likely employ immigrants.

“I think that there are a lot of people within the service industry who might want to be here who have obligations to their families and they are scared,” Mancha Dominguez said. “I think the constant need is to let people know that we are here, and that San Antonio is a city that supports undocumented people.”

Diego Mancha Dominguez walks with the group of protesters against SB4.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Diego Mancha Dominguez walks with the group of protesters against SB 4.

Kathleen Barr of Seguin travelled to San Antonio with her two young daughters to participate in the march. Barr said that as a homeschooling parent, she believes that it is important to participate in events that allow people to exercise their voices.

“As a white person, I don’t have to live the reality that so many people are living every day,” Barr said. “There’s a level of fear that people face all the time that I don’t have to face and it’s overwhelming to know where and when and how to use my voice. When I found out about this I knew that it was important to be here.”

Barr marched with her friend Rachel Epp Miller, who immigrated from Canada and now resides in San Antonio. She arrived at the march with her 4-year-old son Ira, who held up a sign that read “Love everyone.” Epp Miller said that today Ira asked her what an immigrant is. She said that as a parent she sees the march as an opportunity to instill values and to teach her son to show up and to understand what is going on in the world around him.

“Our job as citizens in this country is to care for people in our community and the immigrants among us, to show up when other people aren’t caring, and to be present,” Epp Miller said.

Ira, 4, holds a sign that says "practice kindness" in the protest against SB4.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Ira, 4, holds a sign that says “practice kindness” in the protest against SB 4.

As the march arrived at City Hall, Dreamer and KIPP Academy Spanish teacher Maria Rocha read a poem she wrote about her experience as an immigrant.

As she read, her words rippled through the crowd of people, many sharing her experience of wanting to be judged by their contributions to society and not their immigration status.

“Give us the chance to live out our rights,” Rocha said.

 

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