Police arrested 15 activists blocking traffic in Austin, Texas as part of an act of civil disobedience calling on legislators to keep deportation protections in place for undocumented immigrants.
Four of the activists are covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which grants temporary deportation relief and work authorization for certain undocumented immigrants. During the demonstration, 15 activists sat across a major intersection street leading to the Texas State Capitol as police stepped in to arrest them. About 50 protesters showed up in support.
At the time of his detention by police, one activist told a KVUE television reporter that he was getting arrested for the sake of his undocumented family members, who he says deserve respect.
JUST IN: 15 immigrant rights activists arrested during demonstration in Austin #Texas
— ANTONIO ARELLANO (@AntonioArellano) July 26, 2017
“I want my community to know that politicians do not get to decide who is deserving of dignity and who is not,” Catalina Santiago, a DACA recipient arrested in Tuesday’s action, said in a statement. “DACA is under attack while my parents, who are farmworkers, were never even given the temporary protection DACA provides. I am getting arrested today to tell my parents, my community, and the rest of the 11 million that no matter what politicians say, you are worthy and we will not settle for the crumbs they offer us in exchange for being the economic and labor force that sustains this country day in and day out.”
— Adam Greenberg (@pragmactivist) July 26, 2017
Much is on the line for the four DACA activists arrested and Texas’ 1.5 million undocumented population. Texas is currently a “battleground state” where Attorney General Ken Paxton has sought a legal challenge against the Trump administration to repeal DACA by September 5 or face a Republican-led lawsuit to dismantle the initiative. SB4, a vehemently anti-immigrant “show me your papers” law that expands the authority of law enforcement officials to go after suspected undocumented immigrants, is also set to take place on September 1.
For Maria Fernanda Cabello, a spokesperson for Movimiento Cosecha and organizer of the event, the arrest of the undocumented activists underscores the seriousness of Trump’s immigration agenda against the undocumented population. Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency have maintained that any undocumented immigrants facing criminal convictions, regardless of the severity of the charge, should be deported.
“These folks are very aware of the risks they were taking,” Cabello told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Seven years ago, the first set of undocumented youths got arrested in Washington, D.C. when we didn’t know what would happen to them in the DREAM Act [a bill that would provide an eventual pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants]. They’re really looking at that legacy.”
“There are so many national laws coming against our immigrant community right now.”
“With DACA being under attack and with Trump’s [harsh immigration policies], there are so many national laws coming against our immigrant community right now,” Cabello added.
“We’re not here to change Greg Abbott’s mind or the Attorney General, we’re here to talk for our community that we can’t wait for politicians and that there’s a group out there fighting,” Cabello continued, explaining that activists hope to get more immigrants involved in future fights. “We believe in permanent protections through the power of the labor force of the immigrant community so we want people watching us to join the movement and fight for permanent protections.”
It’s currently unclear what the undocumented protesters will be charged with, and whether they will be turned over to immigration authorities given Trump’s immigration policies. But the protesters were arrested in Austin, a city that currently does not hold immigrants beyond their jail time for the purpose of turning them over for federal immigration processing.
As experts and legislators point out, deporting undocumented immigrants in big states like Texas could crater local economies. A 2016 report by the Center for American Progress indicates that the construction, agriculture, and hospitality industries would suffer greatly if all undocumented immigrants were deported. (Editor’s Note: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress.)
TX has the 2nd largest number of DACA recipients in the country and our state would lose $6.1 billion annually if Dreamers are deported. 1/2
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) July 19, 2017
“Texas is ground zero for discrimination against Latinos, immigrants and all people of color,” Cristina Tzintzún, Jolt Founder & Executive Director, said in a statement. “Efforts by Governor Abbott to promote SB4 and stop the DACA program are hateful, discriminatory and will put our communities in danger. We commend the organizers of today’s DACA action for following the American tradition of using non-violent civil disobedience to advance the rights of people of color.”