POLITICS
05/02/2017 05:37 pm ET

Immigrant Legislator Breaks Down While Speaking Out Against Texas Immigration Bill

“This topic is painful for me because I am an immigrant. My parents are immigrants. I represent a district filled with immigrants.”

A Texas representative gave an impassioned speech, opposing a bill banning “sanctuary city” policies. 

Rep. Gene Wu (D-TX), who’s Chinese-American, addressed the state’s House of Representatives last Wednesday during a debate about Senate Bill 4. The bill, which was approved by the House the next day, would force law enforcement officials to cooperate with deportation efforts by threatening jail time among other punishments. It would also allow police to question the immigration status of anyone they stop, including children.

Wu broke down in tears during his remarks, explaining his reasons for opposing the bill as well as why the issue hits home for him.  

“This topic is painful for me because I am an immigrant. My parents are immigrants. I represent a district filled with immigrants,” Wu, who represents District 137, tearfully said. “Some are here as refugees, some are here as citizens, some are here without papers. But they are all my people.”

Though Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law, footage of Wu’s emotional statements have been making the rounds on the internet, earning a great deal of praise from social media users who admire his passion on the topic. 

The debate ended up lasting about 16 hours and resulted in a vote of 94-53 for the bill. Speaking to fellow members of the state’s house, Wu compared SB 4 to other racist policies in history that singled out immigrants. He brought up the Chinese Exclusion Act, which provided a 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration, as well as the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“Those are also laws that were created out of fear, would you not agree? Those are laws created out of hatred and misunderstanding,” he said. 

Wu has since released a statement on the passage of the bill, further stressing his opposition. He argued that the legislation wouldn’t just target criminals, but also children, victims of crimes and those who have served in the armed forces. The representative also described his personal fears on the subject and said that the bill would be a reminder to his sons “that the law will treat them with suspicion,” concluding with his disappointment over the issue.   

“Democrats were united in their opposition to the legislation because this felt like an attack on the diverse communities that we represent and that make Texas great,” Wu wrote in the press release. “At the end of the day, all we asked for was mercy for our communities; mercy for our families; and mercy for our children. But no mercy was given.”

The legislator is among many others who have joined in widespread criticism of the bill. On Monday, dozens of activists arrived at the State Insurance Building, where several of the governor’s offices are, to protest. More than 20 people were detained and served with misdemeanor trespassing tickets Monday after refusing to leave the offices unless the governor agreed to veto the legislation. 

Many law enforcement officials have also voiced their opposition to the bill. In a piece for the Dallas News, David Pughes, interim chief of police for Dallas, and Art Acevedo, chief of police for Houston, argued that the legislation would cause distrust between citizens and law enforcement. 

“Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance,” they wrote. “This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community. And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.”

 

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