In the wake of the controversial passage and signing of Senate Bill 4, scheduled to become law Sept. 1, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and Houston city councils filed lawsuits.
To date, Fort Worth and Arlington have elected not to do so.
This inaction sparks the question — why not?
SB 4 will allow police, among other actions, to ask folks they stop for their citizenship status. Some call it “Show Me Your Papers” law.
Reasons given for the lawsuits: The law discriminates against Latinos; immigrants will hesitate to report crimes to law enforcement; local governments are not responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws; cities are punishing peaceful, hard-working immigrants; families will be split when members are deported; construction industries have found it increasingly difficult to locate workers; Mexico is the No. 1 trading partner with Texas; and finally, the law is immoral, unconstitutional, and harks to the days of Jim and Jose Crow laws.
The Editorial Board wrote that although Senate Bill 4 is wrong, “Fort Worth, Arlington and Tarrant County need not join the lawsuit for now, but should watch it closely as it develops” (“Senate Bill 4 is wrong, but should cities sue?”, June 21).
I’m reminded of my schoolboy days when the bully would terrorize the playground until a courageous youth would square off. In the meantime, the meek stood by, grateful that someone else did their fighting for them.
After Fort Worth police information officer Daniel Segura went on Facebook counseling immigrants not to panic and to contact police when needed, Mayor Betsy Price and Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald quickly proclaimed Fort Worth is not a “sanctuary city.” According to state Rep. Ramon Romero, he has received increased hostility for his vociferous resistance on the House floor against passing SB 4.
We must ask whether this a resurfacing of the “Fort Worth Way,” where deals were brokered among elites, primarily Anglos, without citizen input to minimize Panther City controversies? Where minorities were told to settle down while people in charge resolved the issues in private?
Former City Councilman Sal Espino tells how a Houston-based consultant recently described the demographic changes sweeping Texas, reinforcing former State Demographer Steve Murdock’s forecasts that Texas and Tarrant County are trending toward a Latino majority.
According to the 2010 U.S. census estimates, Fort Worth was 34 percent Latino, 19 percent African-American and 4 percent Asian-American. The same census found that Arlington was 28 percent Latino, 19 percent African-American, and 7 percent Asian-American. Both cities were majority-minority then and now, and most likely for the future.
Most Fort Worth and Arlington city council members are Anglo and therefore come from a demographic that is numerically shrinking.
Census data confirms that the Latino population is young, while the Anglo population is aging. Anglo children and grandchildren will live and work in a world quite ethnically different than their parents and grandparents. If only for self-interest, Tarrant County cities must consider a future where neighborhoods and work sites will be dominated by the “minority” population.
For economic survival, it’s time to see and act on the fact that 21st-century Tarrant County cities’ financial and social well-being will depend on mainstreaming a robust, ethnically diverse urban population. Regardless of our skin color, the green will grow when more people are earning and spending.
Houston, Dallas, El Paso and Austin recognized that conservative state legislators and Gov. Greg Abbott had enacted SB 4 in their attempts to mollify ever-decreasing Anglo communities. The cities recognized that any legal attempts to further marginalize, intimidate and incarcerate a growing population will lead to social unrest, economic downturn, and interethnic hostility.
For these reasons, their city councils found it prudent to protect their residents’ civil rights by filing a lawsuit. They decided that in order to promote an inclusive, cohesive community, it was worth their time and money to fight SB 4 legally now.
Fort Worth and Arlington should join these cities now in this SB 4 lawsuit to resist the efforts of misguided state legislatures and governor to return to a disgraceful time in Texas history when Latinos and African-Americans were treated openly as second-class citizens.
The legal costs are necessary to ensure the current majority residents — Latinos and African-Americans — know their local representatives consider them first-class and worth the money to file a lawsuit.
Sitting out the legal wrangling sends a message that our Latino and African-American children’s and cities’ futures are unworthy. We deserve better now.
Richard J. Gonzales is a local activist, speaker, and author. University of North Texas Press published “Raza Rising: Chicanos in North Texas” in March 2016. Sleeping Panther Press will release his novel, “Deer Dancer,” in July 2017. He has lived, worked, researched, and written about Latino issues in North Texas for 48 years.