This week, South Side Councilman Rey Saldaña pushed through a request for the city to help fund educational and legal services for San Antonio's immigrant and refugee population.
At its Thursday meeting, City Council approved pulling some $150,000 from its $1 million emergency fund to pay for a range of services that include know-your-rights workshops, power of attorney legal clinics, and help on citizenship applications. Saldaña says the emergency funds, which are usually tapped for things like natural disasters, are sorely needed in light of immigration crackdowns at both the state and federal levels.
Saldaña was one of several San Antonio officials who went to the Texas Capitol earlier this year to testify against Senate Bill 4
, a measure Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law this week that extends the reach of immigration enforcement into local police departments. Saldaña recounted for lawmakers stories his father, who was undocumented for about half his life, used to tell him about hiding from immigration agents during raids on the slaughter house where he once worked.
"These are the types of folks we're talking about," Saldaña told lawmakers, urging them not to pass the bill. "We're not talking about criminals."
Saldaña says local nonprofits that work with immigrants have seen a spike in requests for legal help as the Trump Administration and Texas Legislature pass policies many fear will force immigrant communities into the shadows. In a prepared statement Thursday, Saldaña called the decision to fund legal services for immigrants "putting money where our mouth is."
“Earlier this year, I voiced my opposition to the wave of ICE raids using dragnet tactics throughout the country and I traveled to Austin to testify against Senate Bill 4," he said. "I have publicly denounced the overreach of anti-immigration laws and mandates proposed by the State Legislature and the Office of the Governor and reassured all members of our community regardless of their immigration status that they are not alone and the safety of all members of our city remains a top priority."
Read more about what Texas' crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities" means in the Trump Era and how local law enforcement are reacting to the passage of SB4.