Texas Democrats see political opportunity in tough immigration law

Texas Democrats see political opportunity in tough immigration law

Judicial strikes over Texas’ controversial new immigration law have delayed its implementation, but likely won’t delay its political effects.

SB 4 is the latest in a series of local and statewide immigration campaigns dating back at least to California’s Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot measure supported by then-Gov. Pete Wilson (right) who has tasked individuals from California with reporting anyone suspected of being undocumented to immigration authorities.

The backlash to Proposition 187 was immediate—it prompted 70,000 opponents to march against it in Los Angeles—and long-term: the fallout over Proposition 187 galvanized California’s Hispanics into political engagement as courageous Democrats, turning the largest state in The country turned blue.

A similar shift occurred in Arizona in the wake of SB1070’s 2010 “Show Me Your Papers” law, which angered many Latinos in that state.

SB 4 makes it a state crime to enter Texas outside a port of entry, giving local law enforcement authority to pursue potential immigration violations that was previously strictly federal jurisdiction.

“I think Texas is on the verge of becoming a purple state, especially if Republicans continue to practice hate politics and spread fear and division,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the Texas-based League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s oldest association. Latino Civil Rights Organization.

But Texas has been on the verge of becoming competitive for years, with Democrats failing in a series of campaigns that scared away many left-leaning donors.

Six years ago, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) came close to unseating Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), by 2.5 percentage points.

Cruz, along with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), is the closest thing Senate Republicans have to a vulnerable incumbent, both holding seats rated “likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report.

Democrats say SB 4 is not a turning point, but another step toward an inevitable end.

The Latino change in Texas has already happened. Let’s remember that Texas is a single-digit state. Let’s remember that in 2020, Donald Trump won by just six points. Ted Cruz barely survived by 2 1/2 points in 2018, said Manny Garcia, an Austin-based political activist and former executive director of the Texas Democratic Fund. “Cycle after cycle after cycle, Texas Democrats were getting closer and closer.” State Democratic Party.

As the election approaches in Texas, the state government is becoming more aggressive with immigration policy.

SB 4 — a law that was first blocked by an appeals court, reinstated by the Supreme Court, and within hours blocked again by a lower court — is the next step in GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to keep border policy out of politics. Federal government.

Abbott led Operation Lone Star, a program that sometimes brought Texas National Guardsmen into direct contact with migrants at the border, while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) went after charitable organizations serving migrants.

Last February, Paxton opened an investigation into the “House of the Annunciation,” a well-known Catholic shelter for immigrants in El Paso, on charges of human smuggling.

“I wasn’t in California when 187 happened, but just seeing it here and feeling that even a shelter like the House of Annunciation, could be classified as a hideout house, or could be classified as part of a human smuggling ring, it’s almost as if it were a shelter,” said Mario Carrillo, campaigns director. “It’s something even more egregious,” said Voice of America, a progressive pro-immigration group.

If implemented, SB 4 could radically change the number of Texas Latinos living, especially those living in mixed-status households, and could worsen relations between state Hispanics and local law enforcement officials.

Two provisions are particularly controversial: One allows all law enforcement officers in Texas to detain anyone on suspicion of being in the country illegally. The other would enable judges to order undocumented individuals to physically cross into Mexico or face severe prison sentences.

The law may never see the light of day, as it is an unorthodox measure that many say is unconstitutional. This would mitigate any political side effects among voters who never feel its implementation.

Bexar County Sheriff Antonio Salazar spoke out earlier this week against the law on the grounds that it could encourage racial profiling by deputies, according to a report by the San Antonio Express-News.

However, many Latinos in Texas are more conservative than their peers in California or Arizona, and immigration enforcement agencies such as the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection are a major source of employment for Hispanics along the border.

“There’s a subset of the Latino community, I would say 80 percent of all (ICE) agents and Border Patrol agents are Hispanic. So that’s their livelihood. That’s what they rely on,” Domingo Garcia said. They will vote, maybe Republican, but there are also a lot of families on the border, and they are mixed, you know, grandpa and grandma may be undocumented but their children and grandchildren are American citizens.”

“And they don’t want to know that they’re being arrested because they went to church or they went to the store and then they get arrested and they get deported. And for the local police officer to become an ICE agent. That’s where I think the fear and resistance is going to come, and that’s what we saw in Arizona.” We saw it in California.

In California, a state with a Latino population similar to Texas, the 1994 election saw Proposition 187 adopted by popular vote, and Wilson was re-elected to his second term in office.

At the time, support for Proposition 187 was high, even among Latino voters in the state.

The big shift in California politics came when Latinos who had never been involved in politics began registering to vote amid fear of the effects of Act 187 on their lives.

Latinos in Texas are more politically active than their California counterparts in the early 1990s, but there is still a broad swath of Hispanic voters sitting on the sidelines.

“There’s always a running joke in the Rio Grande Valley that turnout is high in the May elections, not the November elections, because those are school board races,” Manny Garcia said.

Redistricting after the 2020 census generally favored Republicans, even delivering their first victory in a century in the Rio Grande Valley congressional seat now held by Rep. Monica de la Cruz (R).

But this competitiveness has also galvanized the region’s democratic political machinery to get voters to the polls in November.

Local Democrats believe the conservative family values ​​common in the area do not translate into the national political definition of conservatism.

“A family in the Rio Grande Valley is not sitting around applauding (Reps.) Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO). They don’t sit back and applaud everything Donald Trump does. They don’t do that, right. “So Republicans are delusional if they think this is what’s happening in the Rio Grande Valley,” Manny Garcia said.

While the Texas Democratic Party has shown competitiveness in tough local races, it is struggling for campaign money in a tough cycle in which most of the national attention will be in battleground states.

The fact that Texas Democrats have not won statewide elections since 1994 haunts party members and scares off big-money donors, including Texans who fund out-of-state races they consider winnable.

However, the demographics in Texas are changing, not only becoming more Latino, but younger.

“We have about 1.8 million new voters since (2018), the majority of whom are Latino. This can be galvanized force. “That Rosa Parks moment is what pushed Latinos to get out and vote and become more active,” Domingo Garcia said.

National Democrats have not yet committed significant funds to Texas campaigns, but some party strategists are seeing the opportunity.

“There is a huge opportunity for Democrats to take advantage of strict and complete overrides. “SB 4 is clearly the spiritual descendant of those other failed anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws, designed to terrorize Latinos and other communities of color,” said Maria Cardona, a national Democratic political strategist.

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