Immigration Storm Reaches Hurricane Strength

10,000 protesters crowd Austin's streets in support of immigrant rights

Immigration Storm Reaches Hurricane Strength
Photo By Jana Birchum

In what is being called the largest mobilization in U.S. history, well over 10,000 Austinites joined 18,000 folks in San Antonio and millions of people across the nation in defense of immigrant rights on Monday. The steps of the Capitol were filled with people wearing white shirts to denote peace, all gathered to hear statements of support from Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and Austin City Council Member Jennifer Kim, among others. Dancers in traditional indigenous dress performed a blessing of the elements, joined by a respectfully silent crowd in facing the four directions.

photo by Jana Birchum

"Yesterday, there were half a million people in Dallas protesting against inhumane proposals that we heard floating in Washington, D.C., over the past few weeks," said Will Harrell, executive director of ACLU of Texas. "While those 500,000 people were walking the streets, only 16 Minutemen were wallowing in the heat of the border." As volunteers snaked through the crowd, registering people to vote, Harrell continued to uproarious applause, "I think Senators Cornyn and Hutchison have made grave errors in judgment. They've done their math, and they've made an error."

photo by Jana Birchum

After being interrupted by the arrival of popular huapango musicians Don Raul y Los Trovadores, Silky Shah of Texas Grassroots Leadership and Not With Our Money took the mic. "People are always saying, 'What should we do with all these undocumented immigrants?' But they are not saying what they are already doing with these immigrants. They are not telling you that these bills expand the detention centers already in existence in this country. They are not telling you about the 2,800-bed detention facility that they are trying to build 300 miles south of here in Laredo. Join me in calling for an end to detentions, an end to deportation, and justice for all immigrants."

photo by Jana Birchum

"It is not a better life, to be separated from your family, to be risking death at the border. This is just what a human needs to do to provide for their families," explained an earnest demonstrator after Shah's speech. The protester, who gave his name as Alex, has been living and working, undocumented, in the U.S. for 15 years. Though he applied for his papers three years ago, he has yet to receive any response. "I don't think people should be rewarded for breaking the law, but the punishment should fit the crime. This is so unfair: Sentencing people for providing for their families is like sentencing a hungry kid to life in prison for shop-stealing."

photo by Jana Birchum

After the rally at the Capitol, a seemingly endless stream of people chanting "Si, se puede" ("Yes, we can"), "El pueblo unido, jamás sera vencido" ("The people united, will never be defeated"), and "Aquí estamos y no vamos" ("We are here, and we're not leaving") marched to the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, where music and speeches from local religious, labor, and immigrant rights leaders awaited them.

photo by Jana Birchum

"Never before has there been a march like this in Austin," exclaimed Josefina Castillo, of the American Friends Service Committee. "It is appropriate that we should end our march here at the federal building, because immigration is not an issue that has to do with internal security, as many in Congress would have us believe. There is a link between our role in globalization, immigration, and the militarization of our border. We all know that undocumented migration from Mexico to the United States has more than doubled since the NAFTA was enacted."

In a show of solidarity among those traditionally oppressed by American society, Priscilla Hale of ALLGO (formerly known as the Austin Latina/o Lesbian and Gay Organization) took to the stage and began to speak, somewhat nervously. "I stand here today as a black lesbian born in this country who understands and supports immigration rights. We must support each other in our fight for our rights. As long as this country continues to destroy land and resources in other countries, there will always be a need for people to leave their home countries to take care of their families." As her remarks were translated into Spanish, the crowd whistled and shouted, one woman emphatically waving her sign that read: "Thank you, citizens, for your support. It means so much."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More immigration
Bus Stops and Court Benches
Bus Stops and Court Benches
On immigration in McAllen

Martín Steinhagen, Sept. 28, 2018

Allegations of Mistreatment at a Southwest Key Shelter
Allegations of Mistreatment at a Southwest Key Shelter
The deportation complex

Mary Tuma, Aug. 3, 2018

More by Diana Welch
The Real Cost of a Lap Dance?
The Real Cost of a Lap Dance?
Lawsuit cites violation of wage laws at strip clubs

Oct. 29, 2010

Mistrial, Retrial for McKay
Mistrial, Retrial for McKay
Jurors drop bomb on prosecutors' case against man accused of bomb-making

Feb. 6, 2009

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

immigration, immigrant rights, Gonzalo Barrientos, Jennifer Kim, Will Harrell, ACLU of Texas, John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Don Raul y Los Trovadores, Silky Shah, Texas Grassroots Leadership, Not With Our Money, Alex, J.J. Pickle Federal Building, Josefina Castillo, American Friends Service Committee, NAFTA, Priscilla Hale, ALLGO

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle