On Monday, Representative Matt Rinaldi, called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after hundreds of mostly Latino activists filled the House gallery to protest Senate Bill 4, the controversial ‘sanctuary cities’ ban.
Jose Garza, an attorney representing El Paso County in its suit against SB 4, told the Observer that the incident will “almost assuredly” be used to help establish in court that the Texas Legislature passed the law with “discriminatory intent.”
“This was a peaceful protest and many were citizens,” Garza said, “and Rinaldi sicced ICE on them because they were brown.”
Rinaldi, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and an outspoken supporter of SB 4, said in a statement on Monday that he called ICE after seeing signs that read “I am illegal.” After several people, including Democratic lawmakers, said there was no evidence of those signs, Rinaldi clarified in a radio interview Thursday that the signs read “undocumented and unafraid” and “undocumented and here to stay.”
See here for some background. As we have seen with the Muslim ban litigation, judges have been more than willing to pay attention to what politicians have said outside the courtroom to help discern their intent. In this case, it’s Rinaldi’s actions that give away the show. You can say whatever you want about SB4 not being anti-Latino or it not being about harassing law-abiding people, but when you have a State Rep calling ICE on peaceful protesters because he got freaked out by them and wanted to put them in their place, it all rings pretty damn hollow. Now it’s up to the courts to step in and sort it out. There will be plenty of evidence for them to consider.
(It should be noted that while Jose Garza has brought this up, the ACLU attorneys in the litigation, who are the same attorneys that successfully halted Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, are not including Rinaldi’s words at this time. Of course, that can change, and there will be plenty of opportunities for others like Rinaldi to add to the pile.)