On Monday, May 29th, over a thousand protesters gathered at the Texas House of Representatives in Austin to speak out against SB 4, also known as the “Show Me Your Papers” law. As a result, State Representative Matt Rinaldi called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), informing them that some of the peaceful demonstrators may have been undocumented immigrants.
When Representative Rinaldi informed his colleagues of his actions, a confrontation broke out between Rinaldi and Representatives Ramon Romero and Poncho Nevárez. Both sides claim that they were threatened and physically assaulted by the other. You can see a video of the scuffle below:
— KVUE News (@KVUE) May 29, 2017
“There was a subsequent exchange between my brother Poncho and Representative Rinaldi and there was a threat made from Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads,” Representative Justin Rodriguez told reporters. “That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”
“I made it clear that if [Nevárez] attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense,” Rinaldi wrote on his Facebook.
SB 4 is a new Texas law which would require police to arrest anyone they encounter who has an administrative detainer request from ICE, even though detainers are not court orders and are not mandatory under federal law. The bill was signed into by Governor Greg Abbott on May 7th, and will go into effect on September 1st of this year.
ICE has said that public demonstrations are safe spaces where they will not detain undocumented immigrants. Reportedly, no protestors in or around the Texas House of Representatives were detained by ICE on May 29th. However, the brazen act of an elected official calling ICE on demonstrators knowing some were undocumented shows a new and deeply troubling level of disrespect for safe spaces, disregard for our first amendment, and prejudice against all immigrants on the part of Representative Rinaldi.