A group of immigration activists from the Coastal Bend were in the Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting Wednesday as they were set to vote on a resolution in opposition to SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" law.
However, that vote was tabled and many in public comment expressed concern that their voices were being stifled.
Many of the activists present at Wednesday's meeting included representatives from various groups such as RAICES and the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition, along with other human rights groups, educators and community activists. The law they are protesting, SB 4, requires local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and allows them to inquire about the immigration status of people who are lawfully detained.
Activists say the law will cause citizens to live in fear and will hurt local businesses.
"What SB4 does is that it basically is a 'show me your papers' law, meaning cops, when they stop anybody for any reason, whether it's a broken taillight or not, they can be asked what their citizen status is," said Claudia Rueda of the CC Immigration Coalition. "We are already hearing from local business owners that they are seeing a decline in their business and their sales because people are afraid; and this isn't just happening in Corpus Christi, but throughout the state."
Despite the presence of numerous groups and citizens wanting to speak out against SB 4 during the meeting, since the resolution in opposition to the law was tabled, it was not to be discussed during public comment.
"We are deeply disappointed," Rueda said. "Obviously the community has a lot to say about this, and I think even though we got to speak during public comment, many of us couldn't make our remarks because we weren't allowed to speak on the issue that was tabled. Or at least that's how it was explained to me. I think it cut off the conversation. I think it was an anti-Democratic move, to be honest."
The resolution was tabled without explanation. When asked by a fellow commissioner why, Judge Neal said, "I don't have to have a reason commissioner."
As for discussing the matter in public comment, Neal said "public comment is reserved for items not posted on the agenda." Many expressed their disappointment at that decision during public comment.
"I am very displeased that you have silenced those who came today to talk about a very important civil rights, legal rights and humanitarian rights issue today," one citizen said during public comment. "I would ask you to reconsider the vote, by which you tabled it. I don't understand why you don't want to have the dialogue and get it out of the way. The dialogue is healthy. Communication is healthy, and by stifling our voices today, you are not helping the county of Nueces in any manner, and I'm shocked that you don't want community and you don't want dialogue."
Her sentiment was echoed by other's who spoke up, including a representative of the immigration group RAICES, or the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, who asked the court to reconsider.