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Texans Rise Up to Defeat Anti-Immigrant Legislation

In what may well prove to be an historically pivotal campaign, a broad coalition of Texas institutions, leaders, and grass roots individuals has defeated the anti-immigrant agenda pushed by anti-immigrant zealots and political leaders in the 2011 Texas Legislature. The Equal Justice Center is honored to have been able to play a significant role in that coalition alongside countless other groups and individuals.

The final - and most contentious - measure to be defeated was the mis-named “santuary cities” bill championed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and favored by the large Republican majorities in the Texas House and Senate. First in the Regular Legislative Session that ended May 30 and continuing through the Special Legislative Session that concluded on June 28, an unprecedented outpouring of public opposition – from across the social, economic, and political spectrum - convinced legislators, including many conservative Republicans, that this legislation was unwise as a matter of public policy and imprudent as a matter of electoral politics. The bill was allowed to die at the end of the special session as opposition to the measure surged and support for the measure collapsed.

(See more about the “sanctuary cities” legislation.)

The defeat of the “sanctuary cities” bill capped a session in which more that 80 anti-immigrant bills which had been introduced at the start of the session were all defeated. In the end, not a single substantial anti-immigrant bill was passed by a legislature that started out looking more hostile to immigrant communities than any legislature in living memory.

This stunning accomplishment can be traced largely to two things: First, a determined coaltion of civil rights groups, community organizations, faith leaders and institutions, law enforcement chiefs and agencies, business leaders, and legislative members organized opposition that only became broader and deeper as the regular session and special session unfolded. Second, Texas is a state with a long and deep and proud immigrant heritage tracing back to its foundation. This is what makes Texas different from Arizona, or Alabama, or Georgia. Even in the face of the fear and resistance to natural social evolution which are currently surging through Texas and the nation, most Texans know in their hearts that embracing our immigrant heritage and welcoming our immigrant communities makes us economically stronger, culturally richer, and more unified as a society.