“Is there a problem with San Antonio?” UTSA Associate Professor & Associate Dean of Public Policy Francine Romero asked a panel of San Antonio leaders at the Thursday night town hall meeting on sanctuary cities. The panel unanimously said no.
The panel was comprised of San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, Texas State Representative Diego Bernal (D-District 123), Republican Party of Bexar County Chairman Robert Stovall and former board member of The Heartland Institute Jeff Judson.
City residents attended the town hall hoping to gather more information about sanctuary cities.
“I’m interested to hear the positions on sanctuary cities because I don’t know a lot about them,” President of Elevate Systems, a local engineering company, and Donald Trump supporter, Scott Gray stated. “With what little I do know about them, I’m not in favor.”
Michael Ortiz, junior criminal justice major, and Edna Segovia, junior public administration major, both attended so as to better understand the topic and the impact the Trump administration will have on them.
“I have family here from Mexico, they’re not illegal, but it’s my roots,” Ortiz said, “I’m curious to know what’s going to happen to people here that are from other countries.”
McManus states that San Antonio is not a sanctuary city because it cooperates with federal authorities but also stated, “I don’t think we should be enforcing federal regulations. We’ve got enough to do right now handling calls for service.”
Newly introduced Bill 4 requires local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.
The crowd applauded when Chief McManus stated his opposition to S.B. 4.
McManus claimed the newly proposed law boiled down to profiling and undermines SAPD’s working relationship with the community.
Judson argued the legislation was about public safety and, “getting known criminals off the street,” describing McManus’ concerns as, “how the Left keeps fanning the flame.”
Most of the crowd laughed at Judson’s claim.
The panel and crowd were divided throughout the evening. One side expressed how undocumented immigrants are not the problem, the other insisted public safety is threatened by illegal aliens.
Protesters interrupted the panel and stuck around after the event chanting, “The People United Will Never Be Divided.”
“The panel chosen to speak did not speak for any immigrant families,” protester and local food shelter coordinator, Isabel Ramos said, “As people who work with undocumented people, people that have undocumented friends and family, this was our action and small contribution to the discussion.
“Unfortunately, like in the past, we have to be loud about it, we have to sometimes be angry about it because if not, our voices aren’t heard or taken into consideration.
“All actions matter, big or small,” Ramos concluded.
Despite the differences of opinion in the audience and on stage, Romero affirmed the goal of the night was met.
“We got the facts out on the table. I felt like people were definitely on one side or the other, but I think they were together in being at the town hall, wanting to listen and participate by submitting their questions, so in that way, I think they were together as citizens,” Romero stated.
Similar bills targeting sanctuary cities failed to pass the Texas legislature in 2011 and 2015 but efforts in this session are more likely yo make it to Governor Abbott’s desk.