When Gov. Greg Abbott signed a “sanctuary cities” ban in May, local advocacy groups pushed back with a summer of resistance that included joining lawsuits, launching know-your-rights training sessions and organizing protests, rallies and marches.
Now, even as Senate Bill 4, a law that would allow police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during routine police encounters such as traffic stops, was blocked temporarily Wednesday, two days before it was set to take effect, nonprofits and advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to prepare immigrants to handle any scenario ranging from what to do in the first 48 hours of detainment to how to interact with law enforcement.
Most nonprofits are moving away from general know-your-rights information to arming people with specific strategies to empower themselves. At a recent deportation defense training hosted by the Workers Defense Project, attendees learned how to mobilize if a family member, neighbor or loved one is detained. The group which helps low-income workers and is part of the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s new immigration enforcement law, taught workshop attendees how to build a successful deportation defense campaign around an individual, including how to write a compelling story for an online petition.
Several organizations are handing out business-size cards with scripts in case of an encounter with a law enforcement agent.
“I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, or sign or hand you any documents based on my 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution,” the card reads. “These rights are available to citizens and noncitizens alike.”
At weekly Workers Defense Project training sessions at the Mexican Consulate and area churches, facilitators often role play different scenarios to prepare people who may be stopped for speeding or asked for an identification card.
The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, prevents the law from taking effect while a lawsuit against it goes forward. “We just don’t know what to expect from the courts,” said Sam Robles, communications director for the Workers Defense Project. “We want to make sure people have protection that they need.”
“No matter what happens, we know this fight is going to continue,” said Luis Ortega, executive director of Immigrants United. “SB4 goes beyond a law. Our job will be to defeat the false rhetoric that demonizes the immigrant community.”