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“We Don’t Need More Detention Centers, More Border Patrol”: Fernando García on SB4 & New Spending Law

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An immigration battle continues on the border between Texas and Mexico, as Texas’s state government increases its militarization of the region, deploying hundreds of National Guard troops and constructing new infrastructure on the border. Meanwhile, a new federal spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden has increased funding for ICE and CBP, and state and federal courts have been wrangling over the legality of SB4, a new Texas state law that gives local police sweeping powers to arrest and deport anyone they suspect has entered the United States without authorization. We hear more from Fernando García, founder and executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, in El Paso. García says the influx of special forces with “no training with how to deal with a civilian population,” alongside the “show me your papers’’ atmosphere created by SB4, is increasing the daily violence faced by Latinx residents on the U.S. side of the border, all while “illegally impeding” the right to seek asylum by those in “desperate” straits on the Mexico side. Instead of capitulating to anti-immigrant politicians, he continues, “We needed for the federal government to stop Texas, stop the governor” from targeting “Latinos, people of color, migrants and people looking for asylum, for protection.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We’re ending today’s show in Texas, where some 200 Tactical Border Force soldiers with the Texas National Guard were deployed in El Paso Tuesday. This comes after Texas erected a second border fence covered in razor wire Friday and riot police attacked migrants who tried to pull it down.

The federal spending bill Biden signed into law this weekend increases funding for ICE and Customs and Border Patrol. This also comes as Texas’s harsh new anti-immigrant state law was put back on hold by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week after the Supreme Court briefly lifted a stay, SB4 giving local police sweeping powers to arrest and deport anyone they suspect of entering the United States without authorization.

For more, we go to El Paso, where we’re joined by Fernando García, founder and executive director of Border Network for Human Rights.

Fernando, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about these 200 soldiers that have been deployed to the border, and also the whole debate over SB4, that almost went into effect, if the Supreme Court had their way, then didn’t because of a lower court ruling?

FERNANDO GARCÍA: Good morning, Amy and Juan. Yes. Thanks for having me again.

Listen, I mean, we have a very — a situation at the border where the state of Texas is massively militarizing our community, especially here in El Paso, but also in the rest of the Mexico-Texas border. Just to give you a little bit of context already is that the state of Texas has deployed 10,000 state soldiers already, the National Guard troops, in our communities, especially along the border. And now we see an increase of that militarization. And I think what’s very concerning is specifically having special troops or special forces coming to El Paso with no training on how to deal with a civilian population, and much less dealing with immigrants and children and refugees. So I think this is just, again, the effort of the state of Texas to usurp the federal powers of especially enforcing border enforcement laws or, in this case, immigration law. So, again, we believe that it’s not only illegal, what the state of Texas is doing, but also it is violating many people’s rights, especially in the El Paso region.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Fernando, could you talk about the decision by President López Obrador in Mexico? He blasted Texas’s SB4 law and said that Mexico won’t accept anyone deported under that law.

FERNANDO GARCÍA: Yes, yes. And to be very clear, what the state of Texas has done [inaudible] immigration enforcement and deportation system from actually allowing the police officers, the state police, asking immigration status, “show me your papers” questions, but also detain, arrest members in the community in Texas, especially the Latino members, and then a state magistrate, a state judge, would decide the deportation of that person that was arrested. And this is impacting not only migrants or refugees that are coming across the border, but also everybody in Texas, whether you’re in Houston, in Dallas, in Fort Worth. So, everybody would be subjected to SB4.

So, what President López Obrador did is that he said, essentially, that he’s not recognizing the authority of Texas to actually enforce federal immigration laws and start deporting either Mexicanos, Salvadoreños or any other immigrants back to Mexico. So, I think that was the right decision. But, however, the state of Texas is still building up this immigration state force.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And also, the new spending bill that President Biden just signed, it provides a massive increase to ICE detention infrastructure and for more money for the Customs and Border Patrol and ICE. Your response?

FERNANDO GARCÍA: Well, that is unfortunate again, I mean, because we know what some extremist politicians like Mr. Greg Abbott is doing already in Texas, which, by the way, other states now are trying to mirror SB4, in Georgia, in Louisiana. And the fact that the federal government doesn’t have an alternative to that, doesn’t have not only an alternative policy, but also an alternative narrative to this so-called invasion of criminals, the way that migrants are being portrayed, it just adds to the problems, because we don’t need more detention centers in the interior or at the border. We don’t need more Border Patrol as is in the DHS funding that was just approved.

What we needed was more welcoming centers. We needed more accountability and oversight to the federal law enforcement at the border. But also we needed for the federal government to stop Texas, stop the governor, of what they are doing in terms of enforcing illegally and unconstitutionally SB4, that is impacting Latinos, people of color, migrants that are looking for asylum and protection. I mean, what you saw in El Paso, the pictures of people running through the barbed wire, it is how desperate the situation is at the border. Because these state soldiers, the barbed wire and this state enforcement, it is illegally impeding migrants and families to ask for asylum, which is their right. It’s an international right. It’s granted in the U.S. Constitution. So, I think that we expected the administration to be more forceful in accomplishing a more humane border and push for immigration reform. We have not seen that. Instead, we have seen more militarization and more resources for detention centers coming from the administration also.

AMY GOODMAN: Fernando, we want to thank you for being with us and ask you to stay after the show to conduct this interview in Spanish. Fernando García, founder and executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso, Texas.

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Hana Elias. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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