Sanctuary Bill Protesters Stage Sit-in in Austin and Rally Around the Nation

AUSTIN -- Dozens of protesters calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to veto the 'sanctuary cities bill' approved by the Texas House last week took over the lobby of a state building as part of a nationwide day of protests that spread across several major cities, including Dallas.About 50 protesters, including religious leaders, activists and local lawmakers, blocked off the entrance to the State Insurance Building in Austin where several programs under the governor's office are headquartered. As they shouted "This entrance is closed!" they called on Abbott to veto the 'sanctuary cities' bill, which would ban cities and counties from prohibiting their officers from asking about a person's immigration status or enforcing immigration law. The House's version of the bill would also allow officers to ask people about their immigration status during a routine stop, which critics have likened to Arizona's "papers please" law - parts of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill's opponents say it will create a rift between local law enforcement officials and immigrants, who would avoid reporting crimes for fear of being deported. "We are here to ask the governor to not sign this bill into law," said Carmen Zuvieta, a protester with a group called "ICE Out of Austin" who called the bill "hateful and racist.""This is not the end," she said. "This is the beginning of a fight."Abbott made passing a sanctuary cities ban an emergency item for the legislature in January. Supporters of the bill say local law enforcement agencies should comply with federal immigration authorities and turn over unauthorized immigrants in their custody. Not doing so, could lead to those immigrants being released and committing more serious crimes. State troopers monitored the protest but had not made any arrests as of 3:30 p.m. Protesters also took to the streets in Dallas, which joined cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, for May Day rallies on immigration across the country. Aura Sarceno, a Guatemalan immigrant, shouted slogans in Spanish with about six dozen other supporters as they walked the sidewalks on Cockwell Hill Road near a shopping area. She praised immigrants for coming to the United States, even if they do so without legal authorization."You need a desire to accomplish things," Sarceno said. "We work with pride and with honor and with much dignity and with respect for what this country is."Around her, protesters carried hand-made signs that read: "We are not tools. We are humans" and "We built this city." A child took the megaphone, howling slogans in Spanish like "Listen, the people are in a struggle."Diana Ramirez with the Workers Defense Project, a statewide organization, said the group is zeroing in on detention centers and their practices, and chose to protest near a Wells Fargo branch because the company has been linked to Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group and the Corrections Company of America, or CCA. CCA is now known as Nashville-based CoreCivic. Both companies run federal detention centersA Wells Fargo did not say whether the bank is a corporate lender to the two companies."Wells Fargo respects the seriousness of our country's ongoing debate about the criminal justice system," Ruth Villalonga wrote in an email. "As a corporation,we do not take positions on public policy issues that do not directly affect our company's ability to serve customers and support team members."The immigration detention system is a civil system, with most as the bulk of the immigration code deals with administrative law. Unauthorized immigrants can be placed in the criminal prison system if convicted of crimes, rather than civil offenses of the immigration code.Ironically, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. has been a national leader in courting the undocumented immigrant market. It continues to accept the Mexican consular ID, said Dallas branch manager Daniel Monterroso.  Continue reading...

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