Donald Trump’s immigration agenda has hit Texas within days of his taking office. Over the weekend, Trump signed two executive orders to start building a border wall and ban immigration from seven majority Muslim countries. This week, Governor Abbott and the Texas legislature have mimicked his efforts, targeting immigrant communities. This is a time of great threat and great opportunity that has pushed students of all backgrounds to get involved in the formation of the laws they are governed by.
This week, Governor Abbott cut funding for Travis County programs benefiting children, women, families and veterans when Sally Hernandez, Travis County Sheriff, refused to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement on policies similar to Senate Bill 4 that she believed did not benefit Travis County. Following this, the Texas Senate proposed SB4, or the “sanctuary cities” bill, which, if passed, would require police officers to enforce federal immigration policy and allow noncitizens to be detained or deported for offenses as minor as traffic violations. Many are concerned that the bill will encourage racial profiling and deter victims and witnesses from reporting crimes. Over 500 people showed up to testify at the bill’s hearing this Thursday, which lasted well into the night. Tellingly, Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, its author, left before close of business.
This election has spurred a wave of grassroots movements throughout the city. The Women’s March in Austin drew around 50,000 protesters adorned with Viva la Vulva t-shirts chanting, “This is what democracy looks like.” The legislature is in session this semester and a number of organizations have cropped up on campus — including a student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union — to host community organizing trainings and legislative session workshops. Because the legislature is in session, new laws are being considered. This means you can call the representatives who will be voting on these bills, from home in your pajamas (DailyAction.Org is a good site to get started). If you are looking to volunteer in your community, the TRUST Coalition is a group of nonprofits dedicated to promoting common sense immigration reforms. Many TRUST partners are eager for new volunteers, such as Grassroots Leadership and the ACLU of Texas. If the phone calls, community work or on-campus engagement sounds intimidating, try writing your opinions in the peace of your own home. You can submit an op-ed to the Daily Texan, like I am, and share your unique perspective on what’s affecting all of us.
You don’t have to be a politics junkie to get involved in your community and you don’t have to know all the answers to demand change. There are people who have been working to create safer, more inclusive communities for longer than you or I. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel — just support their efforts. The power of the people starts with 10 minutes of your day.
Shah is a government senior from Temple. She is the director of the student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.