On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, said divisive rhetoric in America is nothing new, saying his grandmother remembered derogatory signs about Mexicans like herself in the 90s.
“Signs above Texas establishments, they said ‘No dogs or Mexicans allowed,’” Castro said. “But in every generation there have been people like you, Americans who have stood up and said that’s not the kind of country we want.”
According to Texas Capitol Police, 5,000 to 7,000 people overflowed the Capitol’s steps during a No Ban No Wall rally. Rallies supporting undocumented immigrants and Muslims under the same message swept the country this month. Refugees, immigrants, lawyers and lawmakers spoke about their experiences as subjects and allies amidst President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders, toughening immigration law.
Similar rallies were held in major cities in states like California, Oregon, Virginia and Kansas during different times this month.
Adonias Arevalo-Melara, an undocumented student and member of immigrant-rights group United We Dream, spoke and challenged recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. Arevalo-Melera then urged the crowd to chant “unafraid, undocumented.”
“I am standing here today because people of my community are being criminalized by the system,” Arevalo-Melara said. “No ban, no wall and no raids. No more separation from
Brazilian band Maracatu Texas pounded on robust drums and jingled Latin sleigh bells after the speakers’ statements. Some participants wore Mexican flags like capes and others held up signs reading “All walls must go from Palestine to Mexico.”
Syrian refugee Sam and his daughter Lyla shared their memories of their war-stricken homeland. Lyla paused to cry after saying children like herself slept out in the cold because their homes were destroyed.
International relations freshman Ayu Sofyan said Lyla’s story was heartbreaking.
“I really liked that Syrian refugee little girl, Lyla,” Sofyan said. “What she had to say about her conditions, especially as someone as young as her, made me like cry.”
Mentions of State Gov. Greg Abbott and personal hardship triggered booing. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, spoke about persuading their fellow lawmakers.
The message did not stop short at immigrants and refugees, as speakers included LBGT members and women, especially those of color, in their calls for unity.
Sulma Franco, a member of ICE Out of Austin, said she fled her home country of Guatemala after facing prejudice for her sexual orientation. Franco had her speech translated in English.
“I needed to get away from my country because I was discriminated against for my sexual orientation,” Franco said. “Now I’m being discriminated again for my undocumented status.”
John Nechman is a Houston immigration attorney who represented people detained at a Houston airport following Trump’s travel ban. Nechman said those waiting to see their family members cried out of gratitude for lawyers like himself.
“All 20 to 30 of them walked over to our little table of volunteer attorneys and they shook our hands and they embraced us,” Nechman said.
Marcela Ramirez, of Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, which advocates for social and economic justice along the border, said walls do nothing and quoted civil rights activist Angela Davis.
“Walls turned sideways are bridges,” Ramirez said.