U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Monday evening urged Fort Worth city leaders to join a lawsuit challenging the state’s new “sanctuary cities” law, saying Mayor Betsy Price and council members should “step up and push back” against the controversial Senate Bill 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1.
“This, to me, is one more example of how Gov. [Greg] Abbott has unfortunately been a bully to mayors and council members throughout the state, telling them how to run their cities,” Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio, said Monday after speaking briefly to United Fort Worth, an activist group that organized opposition against SB 4. “The governor should not be telling Mayor Price or other council members what they need to do on this issue.”
Fort Worth is the biggest city in Texas yet to join the lawsuit. SB 4, a “show-me-your-papers law,” allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they stop or arrest and requires police chiefs and sheriffs to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for deportation or face hefty fines.
“Mayor Price and the council have done a great job of building up the city of Fort Worth and making it a place that people want to do business in and visit,” Castro said. “I hope that they’ll do what is best for the people of Fort Worth and join Dallas and Houston and San Antonio ... who have stood up to the state and said, ‘This is bad policy.’ ”
The City Council, which has been divided 5-4 in opposition of joining the lawsuit, could vote on the issue Tuesday.
Councilman Carlos Flores, who supports joining the lawsuit, has submitted a council proposal to put the issue on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The proposal directs the city manager and city attorney to take legal action to join litigation brought by Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo opposing SB 4. Council members Ann Zadeh, Gyna Bivens and Kelly Allen Gray also support the move.
In addition, the council is scheduled to consider a resolution that calls on the federal government to change current immigration laws and states that Fort Worth officials are willing to help state and federal officials on those policies.
Price and four other council members have said they don’t think joining the lawsuit will accomplish much, but they also don’t like SB 4. Supporting the resolution, which says “everyone in Fort Worth deserves to live without fear,” would give them a way to express their dislike for the law.
On Monday, United Fort Worth members gathered downtown at The Center for Transforming Lives to listen to Castro and to discuss whether pushing for a vote Tuesday is the right move.
Several people in the crowd wanted a vote to happen sooner rather than later, so that council members who oppose joining the lawsuit would be on the record before Sept. 1. Others suggested trying to put off the vote until the numbers turn in their favor.
“If this was happening in San Antonio, I’d say take the vote when you win the vote,” Castro told the crowd. “But you don’t want to postpone it indefinitely. You want to get them on the record.”
Castro thanked the crowd for its involvement in opposing the legislation. Two weeks ago, hundreds protested Fort Worth’s failure to join the lawsuit, expressing fear that the new law will prevent undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes — whether they are victims or witnesses.
“I know it’s been an uphill battle,” Castro said Monday, “but it’s been worth the fight.”
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.