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EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) – A coalition of immigrant advocates, human rights and faith-based organizations kicked off a campaign to prepare residents of Texas for the new border enforcement law set to take effect in March.

The groups are also staging statewide protests of the law which authorizes law enforcement to take into custody anyone they suspect crossed the border illegally and authorizes judges or magistrates to order migrants return to Mexico, regardless of their nationality.

“SB4 is illegal, it’s unconstitutional,” Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights said. “Therefore, we are resisting SB4. It happens that our major tool of resistance is the Constitution of the United States.” The state has claimed Senate Bill 4 is constitutional and complementary to federal law.

A coalition of 35 organizations are leading a series of protests across the state over the next few weeks urging Texans to demand the repeal of SB4 and the end of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s border enforcement initiative.

During the kickoff in El Paso on Thursday, more than 100 protestors marched through downtown to a building housing state agencies where they held a rally.

“Let’s call SB 4 for what it is, it’s racism,” said former El Paso City Council representative and House District 77 candidate Alexsandra Annello at the rally. “It is profiling community members in this city who don’t speak English and who don’t look like the Governor.”

Similar protests are scheduled in Sierra Blanca, Presidio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, San Marcos, Houston, Dallas and Austin.

The coalition is also holding “know your rights” sessions statewide providing Texans and immigrants with information about what to do if they are pulled over by law enforcement and questioned about their legal status.

Gov. Abbott and other Republican elected officials in Texas, have said the state has been forced to assume the federal government’s duty to secure the border and enforce immigration laws as the number of unauthorized crossings and migrants arriving at the border seeking asylum has soared.

SB 4 criminalizes crossings into Texas between ports of entry. A first offense is a Class B misdemeanor that can mean six months of jail. A second offense could lead to a felony charge with a punishment up to 20 years imprisonment.

“This law and these actions of the Governor of Texas are not solely against migrants,” said Carlos Marentes, director of Sin Fronteras, a migrant farmworker center in El Paso.

At the rally Marentes said, “In Texas, we are getting close to having a totalitarian state government where human rights are not respected.”

Copyright 2024 KTEP. To see more, visit KTEP.

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