Legal and counseling services for immigrants in Austin received a $200,000 boost from the Austin City Council on Thursday.
The funding is added to an existing contract, in place with the Catholic Charities of Central Texas, through which immigrants learn how to secure legal status in the U.S. as well as receive legal counseling. Representatives from the organization said the amount of people seeking counseling per week has shot up from 25 to 40 in the last month, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The recommendation was proposed by council member Greg Casar, who held back tears as he spoke at the meeting, according to the Statesman.
“We have a history in this country of standing up for immigrants, of standing up for everyone’s Constitutional rights,” Casar said. “And we also have a history of coming up with degrading labels for people whose rights we want to take away.”
One dissenting opinion came from council member Ellen Troxclair, who said helping immigrants is a role for nonprofits and suggested a smaller amount of public funding with private matches from others.
Troxclair said she believes some immigrants are here seeking asylum, while others are here for more toxic activity, according the Statesman.
“There are also people who are here who have committed heinous crimes and who have been accused of sexually assaulting children and domestic violence,” Troxclair said. “I think the thing we have to understand is that this conversation is driven by fear on both sides.”
Troxclair’s comment brought criticism from Casar, who accused her of spreading fear and lies by tying immigrants to crime. She responded by saying she would continue to defend conservative ideologies, even when they are treated as irrelevant.
These funds come at a time when federal immigration officers are currently operating in Austin. Over 51 people have been arrested since last Thursday in the Austin-San Antonio area.