On Monday, Texas lawmakers started yelling and shoving one another after a Republican told Democrats he had called immigration enforcement agents to deal with the Hispanic protesters gathered in the state House to oppose a bill that would ban ‘sanctuary cities’ statewide.
Scuffle Followed by Racist Phone Call
A Democrat said that his office received a racist phone call hours after the fight on the House floor. Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-TX) claims that the scuffle between lawmakers was only able to fuel “hate and racism” in the Texas legislature.
Blanco posted on Twitter a recording of the offensive phone call in which a male Republican made racist comments aimed at “illegal aliens” in Texas. Blanco thinks Rinaldi is mainly to blame for the phone call, because he too made “hateful” remarks towards Latinos and illegal immigrants on the House floor Monday.
The Monday talks were met with protests by Hispanics who oppose the Senate Bill 4 (SB4) which places a ban on sanctuary cities in Texas. A video of the protest and the fight between lawmakers was posted on Twitter Monday. Democratic lawmakers said the scuffle started after Rinaldi threatened them.
— KVUE News (@KVUE) May 29, 2017
Texas Rep. Philip Cortez told reporters that he and his colleagues were discussing the protests when Rinaldi showed up and told them that he had called ICE agents to deal with the Hispanics in the building.
And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected,
Another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Justin Rodriguez, claims Rinaldi threw a violent threat to one of his colleagues. Rinaldi reportedly threatened to shoot and kill the lawmaker.
Lawmakers Blame One Another over the Fight
Hours later, Rinaldi confirmed that there was a fight but he added that he was threatened. According to the Republican, a Democrat threatened to kill him after he said that he called the ICE on the protesters in the gallery. Rinaldi claims the protesters were all illegal aliens as one of them held a sign reading ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’
Rinaldi also said that one of the Democrats “physically assaulted” him when he made the announcement, with many other Democrats trying to reach him but being held back by other Republicans.
The Republican lawmaker is currently under the Department of Public Safety’s protection as he fears for his life.
The SB4 is slated to go into effect Sept. 1, when police officers and other law enforcement agents would be allowed to ask about the immigration status everyone who they deem suspect.
The new law also includes penalties to officials who refuse to enforce federal immigration laws in their jurisdictions. The situation in Texas is so risky for immigrants that activists issued a travel advisory for the state.
A county and several groups sued the new legislation which activists call the “show-me-your-papers law” because it could lead to an unprecedented racial profiling.