Workers Defense Project protests at Austin's GOP headquarters over immigration reform

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Anthropology and government senior Jeanette Trejo chants at a rally outside the Texas Republican Party headquarters in downtown Austin in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Protesters demonstrated at the Texas GOP headquarters Tuesday afternoon, one day before congressional Republicans meet in Washington to decide their next move on immigration reform.

Workers Defense Project, an organization that advocates for the rights of immigrants and low-wage laborers, organized the protest. The purpose of the protest was to show Republicans that there is broad support in Texas for a new path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, said Emily Timm policy director for Workers Defense.

Members of Workers Defense said they promote the path to citizenship promoted in SB 744, a bill passed by the U.S. Senate that must now pass the House of Representatives before becoming law. Many Republicans are against the bill, claiming it unfairly grants amnesty to undocumented immigrants and creates border security concerns.

“Congress needs to stand up and do what Texans want, which is pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” Timm said.

Protesters hoped to deliver an open letter of concern to the Texas GOP, but were prevented from doing so when security blocked access to the building’s elevators. Security then asked protesters to leave or be escorted from the premises by the police.

One protester, Pastor Cindy Layton of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the Rio Grande Valley, was eventually allowed to use the elevator and deliver the letter alone. However, Layton soon returned and explained the office would not take the letter because the office claimed it could not make policy decisions.

Layton said her reading of the Bible’s command to treat outsiders as equals motivated her to advocate for immigrant rights.  

“Immigration reform is not just a political or economic issue, but is also a moral cause,” Layton said.

Several UT students were present at the rally, including anthropology senior Jeanette Trejo, who said she is involved in immigrant rights activism because her parents immigrated from El Salvador.

“I want people to know that the only way for people to hear us is to stand united and stand strong,” Trejo said. “So do not be afraid to come out and support immigration reform, because it affects everybody, not just the immigrant community."

However, Alejandro Caceres, a member of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition speaking at the protest, said the immigration bill now before the House already takes border security too far by doubling the number of agents, providing Blackhawk helicopters and drones to patrol the border and expanding private prisons.

“This bill right now is making us forget our past, our history,” Caceres said. “It’s making us decide which immigrants are treated like human beings, with dignity and respect.”